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Letting Young Children Taste Alcohol Does Not Increase Their Resistance: Study

Update Date: Sep 27, 2012 06:43 AM EDT

Many parents let their children taste alcohol at an early age, thinking that it might discourage them from drinking when they reached adolescence. However, this belief is wrong, claims a new study.  

"The idea that early exposure to alcohol can discourage a child's interest in drinking has a strong foothold among some parents of elementary-school-aged children," lead author Christine Jackson, a social ecologist at RTI International, a nonprofit research organization, said in an RTI news release.

In fact, scientists warn that introduction to alcohol at an early age might contribute to increased risk of problem drinking in the teens.

For the study, the researchers analyzed interviews conducted with 1,050 mothers of third-grade children and found that one-fourth of them believed that letting children taste alcohol at an early age discourages their curiosity since they would not like how it tastes and will also remove the "forbidden fruit" appeal of it, according to Health Day.

The analysis of the interviews also revealed that 40 percent of the mothers believed that the longer they kept their children away from alcohol, the more would be their curiosity, increasing their desire. Also, 22 percent of the mothers believed that letting children drink alcohol at home, with parents will give them better resistance to peer pressure to drink and 26 percent thought it would make their children less likely to experiment with risky drinking in middle school, the report said.

It was found that in the study, 33 percent of the children had tasted some or the other alcoholic drinks like beer or wine or others. A strong association could be formed between parents who believed in allowing their children to taste alcohol and children's reported alcohol use.

"These findings indicate that many parents mistakenly expect that the way children drink at home, under parental supervision, will be replicated when children are with peers," Jackson said. "More research is needed to understand how parents acquire these ideas and to understand the relationship between early sipping and alcohol use in adolescence."

The study was published online on Sept. 17 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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