It seems to make some sense: Let your teenagers drink at home where they will have adult supervision and won’t be driving.
But a new study finds that parents who provide their kids with alcohol aren’t doing them any favors.
Teens whose early exposure to alcohol comes from home aren’t protected against the dangers of alcohol, and may even be more likely to drink and suffer alcohol-related harms, according to the study in Lancet Public Health, which followed 1,900 Australian adolescents for six years.
“Those (parents’) aims are admirable, but they’re wrong,” said Richard Mattick, who led the research. “When you look across a large number of people what you find is there’s no benefit.”
Providing alcohol to adolescents, he said, implies that parents approve of drinking. “I don’t think it’s complex. I think it’s that simple.”
The new study looked both at parents who gave their children occasional sips of alcohol, versus those who provided full glasses of beer or wine – and found little difference. “Giving whole glasses is probably worse than giving sips, but giving sips does not protect and still causes harm,” said Mattick, a professor of Drug and Alcohol Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
Although the new study is bigger and longer-lasting than most previous research, other advocates and scientists have long opposed the idea of adults providing alcohol or hosting drinking parties for teens.
“The bottom line is providing alcohol for young people basically backfires,” said George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a federal agency. Throwing a party inevitably means teens who are already heavy drinkers will turn up, he said, “and they train the other kids to be binge drinkers.”