Teenagers who drink alcohol with their parents are less likely to drink heavily, according to research among 10,000 students aged 15 and 16 in 130 schools in England. The investigators, from Liverpool John Moores University’s Public Health Centre, found that young people who were given some alcohol at home with parents were less likely to engage in the most dangerous types of drinking.
Dr. Mark Bellis, who led the study and heads the Public Health Centre, said “The majority of people who are drinking at early ages are not then going on to be problem drinkers later in life.” He said “The real issues are around people understanding alcohol, learning about alcohol, being set a good example by their parents.”
Dr. Bellis said that “The majority of people, by the age of 14, 15 or 16, have drunk alcohol. The question is are they learning to drink from their parents, in a socially responsible environment or are they learning behind the bushes in a park or in a bar where they shouldn’t be in the first place?” The health leader emphasized that “The chances are, if they are in the latter position, they are learning to binge-drink, they are hiding their drinking (from their parents).”
This finding is consistent with research in the United States funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It also found that young people who drink with their parents are least likely to experience drinking problems.
These studies are also consistent with the experience of numerous countries and groups in which children learn to drink alcohol from an early age but who have low rates of alcohol abuse. These groups include Jews, Italians, Greeks, French, Spaniards Portuguese, among many others.
But doesn’t drinking at an early age damage the brain? Actually, there is no evidence that drinking in moderation at an early age causes any brain damage. In fact, students in these early-drinking groups out-perform U.S. students on standardized tests of math, geography, and other subjects.
The new research also found that teenagers who illegally bought their own alcoholic beverages were six times more likely to drink in public, three times more likely to be regular drinkers, and twice as likely to be heavy or ‘binge” drinkers. Other research has found that drinking in public is associated with the worst alcohol-related problems among young people.
In short, youths who drank with their parents exhibited the safest drinking behavior.