Giving, Providing or Supplying Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

Providing alcohol to a minor can seem harmless, especially when the quantity is small. However the negative consequences to the person who supplies the alcohol can be both serious and permanent.

Students preparing for careers in education, law, criminal justice, counseling and other fields may find that they are blocked from entering their chosen fields if they are found guilty of unlawfully dealing with a minor or similar charge. Such a conviction and criminal record, regardless of the circumstances, can be enough to prevent employment in certain occupations.

It’s common for parents to serve alcoholic beverages to their own children. Many states recognize the value of this practice and specifically permit people under the age of 21 to drink with their parents at home, restaurants, bars and other locations.

Federally funded research has demonstrated the effectiveness of the practice of drinking with parents.
The nation-wide study of 6,200 teenagers across the U.S. found that those who drank alcohol with their parents were less likely than other to have either consumed alcohol or abused it.

Minors drinking with parents “may help teach them responsible drinking habits or extinguish some of the ‘novelty’ or ‘excitement’ of drinking” according to senior researcher Dr. Kristie Long Foley of the School of Medicine at Wake Forest University. Dr. Foley describes drinking with parents as a “protective” behavior.

On the other hand it’s important that parents never serve alcohol to the offspring of other parents. The law doesn’t permit it, even with the approval of the other parents.

Many parents understandably attempt to prevent harm to their children’s friends by taking the keys of all young people at the parties they sponsor, insisting on moderation, and closely monitoring behavior. However, such parents may end up seriously hurting themselves. Conviction, fines, imprisonment and a permanent criminal record is what some well-meaning parents have to show for their efforts.


  • Foley, Kristie Long, et al. Adults’ approval and adolescents’ alcohol use. Journal of Adolescent Healthy, 2004, 35(4), 345-346.
  • Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.