Are Kids Who Drink With Parents More Likely To Have Alcohol Problems Later?

A new study from the University of Minnesota has some results that may discourage parents from allowing their teenage children to drink, even while supervised.  Researcher Barbara McMorris, the lead author of the study, concluded that even teens who were allowed to have a moderate amount of alcohol on holidays or during meals were more likely to have drinking problems several years later.

Writing for Time‘s health blog, Peter Dazeley explains that these findings contradict a popular school of thought on teens and alcohol, “where adults allow their children to drink a little in their presence, and where alcoholism rates are no different from those in countries where underage drinking is illegal. By incorporating alcohol into youngsters’ lives from an early age, and not making it a forbidden fruit, they argue, teens are less likely to abuse it as adults.”

McMorris’ study compared 7th-graders from Australia, where underage supervised drinking is permitted, and the United States, where it is not.  By the 9th grade, “36% of the Australian teens had problems with binge drinking or other alcohol-related issues such as getting in fights and having blackouts, while only 21% of the American adolescents did.”
So when parents think they’re teaching their teens responsible drinking habits, are they just telling them that drinking is permissible, even when it’s irresponsible?  McMorris says that drinking in the home doesn’t help teens manage their tolerance, it simply encourages them to start drinking earlier. 

“If a parent or adult introduces a child to alcohol, it sends a message about how to drink in that type of social setting,” she said. “But that message doesn’t translate to the unsupervised setting, so teens won’t necessarily know how to cut themselves off after one drink when they are out with friends. There isn’t a carryover effect.”

I have to say, I’m skeptical of this study; there are so many other factors involved in teen drinking (age, socioeconomic status, and gender, to name just a few) that it seems extremely difficult to determine whether parents allowing teens to drink in the home can be isolated as the sole factor.  Parents should teach their children how to make responsible decision-making, but how they do so is contingent on a wide variety of factors – and encouraging total abstinence from alcohol in the home may not make very much of a difference.  Maybe another answer is to teach parents how to talk to their teens about alcohol, or better educate teens about alcohol use and abuse in schools.


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Zuzana K.
Zuzana K6 years ago

Hmm... Don't know about that. I come from a culture where beer plays a big role and is sort of casual sometimes parents let kids have a sip of foam and whatnot. It' sort of have one pint and that's all sort of culture. It is very casual about it. So drinking together with parents encourages the child to see how to drink (if at all ) responsibly. In the country we moved to, there is SO MUCH legislation about pubs, and alcohol so much more expensive, and ad camplapigns to not drink, yet there is so much binge drinking, drink driving and alcohol violence by the youth - if it's not with parents, the kids go off alone in groups who are irresponsible young teens who get plastered and get very bad habits and don't learn moderation.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

do those 7th graders drink vodka?

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado6 years ago


Beth H.
beth Hall6 years ago

Just set a good example in all areas of life.

Bing M.
Bing M.6 years ago

I think the "study" was simplistic. As well as many problems listed already I think starting with the introduction of seriously intoxicating drinks to 12 or 13 year olds is too early. Letting them have a sip of watered down wine or beer would be a different matter.
It does not address the atmosphere and environment within the "comparable" house holds. Living in a college town I see 16 year olds and up learning how to drink at frat houses. The incoming n on-town students, if they have not started drinking in high school get their first drinking lessons here. Even if they wait for age 21, then the ritual is 21 drinks.
Does anyone seriously think this is a good idea? I believe one should learn around your parents and relatives. Most would very quickly straighten you out if you thought that getting roaring drunk and being sick everywhere was a good idea.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

In Europe, families will share the wine and such at breakfast, and there isn't any taboo. No, the kids don't get "buzzed" or drunk.

I don't drink, but on special occasions, my 11 year old is allowed a glass of wine, share a beer, and no one gets tipsy. There is nothing wrong with drinking responsibly at Thanksgiving supper.

But then again, I don't know why parents would want to encourage drunkenness either, so I'm just not sure what goes on with other people.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna6 years ago

Why would parents drink moderately with their children?

Ally T.
A P6 years ago

Set a good example for your children. Teach them responsibility and moderation. Then again..if you drink in excess and have constant displays of drunkenness then your children will think it's fine. I agree that it's the drinking culture that the children grow up in that influences them more than say a glass of wine with their parents. Besides, I think the study is biased. They chose as a sample, a population in Australia where there is a higher rate of teenage drinking- so they can prove their point. Why didn't they chose Italy or France? It's common knowledge that teens are allowed to drink there.

Myriam G.
Myriam G6 years ago

I agree with Arjen Lentz; alcohol-related problems probably have less to do with the age at which you have your first drink, and more to do with the ''drinking culture'' where you grow up.

Nancy Dodson
Nancy Dodson6 years ago

I can only speak for myself, but when I was a teenager my parents often had beer in the house. I could have one if I wanted one, but I hated the taste of it and still do. While all of my friends were sneaking off to drink it meant nothing to me as I could have one whenever I wanted to. They couldn't believe I could actually drink at home!

All kids aren't the same though, and drinking seems to be the major pastime of so many kids today unfortunately.