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Early Teen Supervised Drinking Problematic

Posted: Friday, 29 April 2011 10:31

Early Teen Supervised Drinking Problematic

Apr 29: Many middle-class parents believe that allowing their children to have a supervised drink is a good way of exposing them to alcohol safely but a new American-Australian study released yesterday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests that it sends mixed signals that could result in abuse of alcohol as they enter their teens.

A joint study of over 1,900 pre-teens of 12 and 13 years of age, found that those whose parents let them have the odd glass of wine or a bottle of beer at home in their early teen years were more likely to experience alcohol-related problems such as not being able to stop drinking, getting into fights, or having blackouts- two years later than those whose parents had a zero-tolerance strategy.

A year into the study, almost twice as many Australian teenagers (67 per cent) had drunk alcohol in the presence of an adult than their American counterparts (35 per cent), reflecting general attitudes in Australia and the US when it comes to supervised underage drinking. The following year, a third (36 per cent) of the Australians had experienced alcohol-related problems compared to a fifth (21 per cent) of the Americans.

While cultural differences alone might account for the disparity, the results also found that teens who had been allowed to drink while supervised were more likely to have had such experiences regardless of which country they were from.

The results of the study, conducted by the Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, Australia, and the Social Development Research Group in Seattle, USA were published yesterday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

British attitudes to teenage drinking are more similar to those in Australia than America, a matter reflected in law. While in the UK and Australia one can buy an alcoholic drink in a pub or off-license from the age of 18, in the US the minimum age is 21. It is legal for parents to give a child over five alcohol at home in UK, according to the report in Telegraph!

Another Dutch study of 500 early teens of 12-15-years age, also published in the same Journal yesterday found that it was the amount of alcohol available at home, and not how much parents drank, that determined teenage drinking habits, suggesting that parents should keep their drinks cabinets locked.

Dr Barbara McMorris of Minnesota University, who led the first study, said: "Both studies show that parents matter.Despite the fact that peers and friends become important influences as adolescents get older, parents still have a big impact."

She added: "Kids need parents to be parents and not drinking buddies. Adults need to be clear about what messages they are sending. Kids need black and white messages early on. Such messages will help reinforce limits as teens get older and opportunities to drink increase."
But Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said British research suggested a zero-tolerance approach could be counter-productive. In a questionnaire sent to school children aged 10 to 15, it was found that those whose parents let them drink but showed concern and had a responsible attitude to drinking, were better protected against excess drinking than the other two groups, Shenker said.

There have been some interesting comments from the readers of Telegraph. As a reader points out, ‘In France, where a huge number of adults generally drink a single glass of wine with dinner, kids are included from a young (pre-teen) age with a small glass of wine mixed with water, graduating to wine at 15 or 16. They grow up with no curiosity for "forbidden pleasures" of alcohol, and very few alcohol abuse problems result.’

Blaming the binge drinking on the alcohol problem another reader says, ‘I wish that we policed the binge drinking exhibited in our towns each weekend with zero tolerance. This is where so many young people develop a habit for heavy drinking. Pubs should lose their license if they persistently allow drunkenness.’

A father not agreeing with the conclusion of the study says, ‘I was allowed the occasional glass of wine growing up, and had an alcoholic father. I rarely drink alcohol, so having access to alcohol hasn't affected me. I think parental attitude of alcohol being something one can take or leave is far more important than access to alcohol.’

A lady comments that in most Med countries it remains a embarrassing disgrace to be drunk in public; whereas in the UK and Australia it is a mere rite of passage. She also wonders if the teen subjects in the ‘research’ may have been exaggerating their alcoholic intake.

Although the study may appear to be irrelevant in India where wine is not usually a part of dinner and even the hard core liquor drinkers would not encourage their teenage children to have any alcohol, delWine believes that half- a glass of wine at the dinner table with food is a proper way to introduce the 18 year+ to wine-perhaps with a glass of bubbly to celebrate their entering the adulthood on the birthday. It should be an option parents should consider at 18, but not before this age. In my random talks with dozens of wine drinkers in Italy, France and Spain, my general impression is that the 16+ kids have half a glass of wine with food occasionally with parents and no big deal is made out of that. Even in these countries where wine is a part of the culture, drinking wine with parents at the age of 12-13 is more an exception than the norm. Our readers views are solicited -editor



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