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Surprising Science

Kids Allowed to ‘Sip’ Alcohol May Go on to Become Early Drinkers

Study finds that Rhode Island kids who were allowed to sip an alcoholic beverage were four times more likely to have been drunk by the time they reached high school.

When I was growing up, New Year’s Eve marked the day when I could indulge in one (very) small glass of an adult beverage. Though, the first time I tried a sip of mom’s Chardonnay, I never wanted it again. Whether this was some elaborate plan for my parents to turn me off from drinking or a way to teach me moderation, I’ll never know. But a recent study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, suggests that I would be considered an outlier, and that letting your kids indulge early may yield bad results later on.

The study was led by Dr. Kristina M. Jackson of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Through several surveys, she and her team tracked the drinking habits of a group of 561 Rhode Island students at the beginning of sixth grade and over the course three years. Around 30 percent of those students said that they had had a sip of alcohol. In most of these cases, parents had been the suppliers.

By ninth grade, 26 percent of the kids who had claimed they’d sipped were already downing a full alcoholic beverage and 9 percent had admitted to binge-drinking or getting drunk — compared to just 2 percent of the “non-sippers.” 

Her team accounted for any factors that could influence underage drinking, such as a family history of alcoholism, parents’ drinking habits, and the impulsiveness of the kid. But even considering those factors, Jackson reported a distinct connection between early sippers and risky drinking habits.

She explained in a press release:

“At that age, some kids may have difficulty understanding the difference between a sip of wine and having a full beer.”

It’s likely that some parents reading this article who have slipped their kid a sip of wine may be going into panic mode — don’t. Your kid isn’t destined to ride the rails; just make sure to highlight how important it is to drink responsibly.

Read more at Science Daily.

Photo Credit: aamylindholm/ Flickr


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