Why Do Parents Give Teens Alcohol?

Many parents provide their teenage children with alcohol. For some, it is a family tradition. Their parents provided them with their first alcohol, so they do the same for their children. For others, it is instructional. They want to teach their children how to consume alcohol responsibly and safely. For some, it is a cultural expectation to provide their children with alcohol. This is especially true in a number of European countries. Most parents who give teens alcohol do so because they want to keep them safe. They believe that if they provide them with alcohol under their supervision, they will be less likely to indulge in risky behavior such as binge drinking and drunk driving.

Studying What Happens When Parents Teens Alcohol

Does this belief have any basis in fact, however? That’s what an Australian study aimed to find out. The study followed 1,927 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 and their parents for six years. The study’s goal was to determine what impact parents giving teens alcohol actually had on their likelihood to engage is dangerous drinking behaviors. The importance of this study cannot be overstated, as alcohol consumption is the single greatest risk factor associated with disabling injury and death among 15-24-year olds across the world. Teenage drinking isn’t just a short-term problem for the participants either, as serious, and potentially lifelong, alcohol use disorders are most likely to develop during adolescence.

A Bad Influence Trying To Give Teens Alcohol

Researchers recruited participating families between 2010 and 2011 from secondary (middle and high) schools located in the cities of Perth, Sydney, and Hobart. Every year, teens and their parents were given separate surveys. They provided such information on how the teens acquired the alcohol that they consumed (from parents, non-parents, or both), binge drinking levels and frequency (defined as drinking more than four drinks at one occasion), type and frequency of alcohol-related harm, and potential symptoms of alcohol abuse. Teens were also questioned about symptoms that could indicate future alcohol abuse disorders.

The Results of Parents Giving Teens Alcohol

When the study began, the average teen participant was 12.9 years old. When the study concluded, the average participant was 17.8 years old. Approximately 15% of teenagers were given alcohol by their parents at the beginning of the study, a figure which rose to 57% by the end of the study. 81% of participating teens had no access of any kind to alcohol when the study started, but only 21% still had no access to alcohol by the conclusion.

The results of the study concluded that rather than reducing the risk of teens engaging in unsafe drinking behaviors, parents giving teens alcohol may have actually increased their likelihood. 81% of teens who acquired alcohol from both parents and non-parents engaged in binge drinking, compared with 62% of teens who only acquired alcohol from non-parents and 25% who relied exclusively on their parents to provide alcohol. Similar results were found for alcohol-related harm and potential symptoms of future alcohol abuse disorders. Perhaps most alarmingly, teens who only received alcohol from their parents one year were around twice as likely to obtain alcohol from non-parent sources the following year.

  • Author — Last Edited: February 6, 2018
    Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
    Jeffrey Juergens
    Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them. In his free time, Jeffrey chooses to spend time with family and friends, preferably outdoors.

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