A study looking into teen alcohol abuse has revealed something very few people saw coming. In fact, the results of the study have been called ‘shocking’ by the researchers and observers. It turns out that giving alcohol to your children as a means of teaching them how to drink responsibly increases the likelihood that those children will become heavy drinkers.
The study followed 2,000 families over a four-year period. It was conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, and led by chief investigator Prof Richard Mattick. Mattick said that although parents may be confused as to the best way to teach their children about responsible drinking, giving them alcohol in early adolescence is not the answer. According to the study:
- parents are the primary supplier of alcohol to those under 18
- children given alcohol by their parents are more likely to seek out alcohol from other sources as well
- children who receive alcohol from parents in early adolescence are three times more likely to be heavy drinkers by age 16
- adolescent drinking is linked to a higher prevalence of sexually transmitted disease and alcohol dependence in adult life.
The results may be shocking to UK researchers, but not to others. For example, Geoff Monroe of the Australian Drug Foundation has previously cited other studies that show adolescent drinkers are more likely to develop physical, cognitive, and emotional problems as adults. He advises parents to keep alcohol from their children for as long as possible.
A Conflicting Message?
In light of the research results, parents are faced with a conflicting message. For the longest time they have been told that early intervention and education are the two most effective tools for preventing alcohol misuse and abuse among their children. Now though they are being told something different. Or are they?
The question here seems not to be one of intervention and education. Rather, it is one of how intervention and education are being implemented. It is possible to intervene and teach kids about alcohol use without actually giving them drink. It is no different from teaching children about illicit drugs. Parents do not give their children small doses of heroin in order to teach them not to use it.
In reality, any conflicting message here is one of giving adolescents alcohol while also telling them not to abuse or misuse it. However, giving drink to a 10-year-old is, by definition, misuse. Moreover, kids are smart enough to know that. Therefore, the whole idea of education through experience is flawed – at least where drinking is concerned. One need only observe teenagers seeking out alcohol from other sources to see this is true.
Major Changes Needed
Experts in alcohol rehabilitation have long maintained that major changes are needed in societal attitudes if we are to make a realistic dent in the problem of alcohol abuse and misuse. This new research drives home the point very clearly. Parents need to understand that by giving their kids alcohol, regardless of the amounts, they are teaching their children to adopt the wrong attitudes about drinking. The best thing we could do for kids is to stop giving them booze.
Addiction Helper is here to assist you if you are struggling with alcohol. You can call our 24-hour helpline regardless of your age or circumstances. We are here to provide a comprehensive evaluation along with sound advice and treatment referrals. If you are under-age, we encourage you to involve your parents in the recovery process. Without effective treatment and the right support, you will have a hard time overcoming alcohol abuse. Inform yourself about children and students with addictions in our student addiction guide.