Early tipple does not serve children

  • Post category:News

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The younger your kids drink the more likely they are to suffer alcohol-related problems later in their lives, a new study reveals. Arlene Harris reports.

MOST parents disapprove of underage drinking, but many believe that allowing their child a watered-down glass of wine with dinner or a sip of beer whileon holiday is the responsible way to introduce them to alcohol in a secure environment.

But American researchers at Yale University School of Medicine have revealed that the younger people have their first drink, the more likely they are to suffer alcohol-related problems in later life and be more prone to drug abuse, liver damage and problematic brain development.

Meghan Morean, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement: “Many studies have found relationships between an early AFD (age of first drink) and a range of negative alcohol-related outcomes later in life, including the development of alcohol use disorders, legal problems like drink-driving and health problems like cirrhosis of the liver.

“There is also evidence that beginning to drink at an early age is associated with more immediate problems, such as compromised brain development and liver damage during adolescence, risky sexual behaviours, poor performance in school and use of other substances like marijuana and cocaine.”

Fiona Ryan of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) says although underage drinking is rife in Ireland, most parents seem to be heeding this latest research from the US as encouraging results from a national survey revealed the majority of Irish parents are not happy to allow their children to drink at home.

In a nationwide survey, the AAI found that 70% of people disagreed that it was okay to let their 15, 16 or 17-year-old drink at home, while 88% of people disagreed that it was okay for parents to buy alcohol for their 15, 16 and 17-year-olds.

“Being a teenager can be tough but so can being a parent; see-sawing between permission and sanction as you try and guide this young person towards adulthood,” she says.

“Parents who buy their children alcohol and let them drink at home are not doing so because they don ’t care about their child, but because they think that they are keeping them safe by allowing alcohol in a controlled environment.

“But, as we can see from the Yale report, the problem is that letting young people drink at home can have the opposite effect and they take it as having tacit permission to drink outside the home too.

“We know from numerous studies that young people need boundaries to feel safe  — even when they cross those boundaries, they still know where the line is.”

Fiona Ryan believes alcohol is too accessible to teenagers and this can lead to regular binge drinking.

“According to the most recent results of the European School Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (2007) Survey, almost half of Irish 15-16-year-olds have reported binge drinking in the past 12 months,” she says

“The age of first drinking has dropped from 16 to 14 in a decade and a significant proportion of 15 and 16-year-olds are regular drinkers.

“Irish teenagers tell us from such reports as the European Schools Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD) that they have no problem getting access to alcohol. It is now being sold at prices where it is comparatively cheaper than cola or water. “The challenge is what we can do as parents and what can be done to ensure laws support protecting children and young people. Enforcing current legislation around serving alcohol to minors has to become better. And at the same time, marketing can and does influence young people ’s decision to drink alcohol.”

Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI Healthcare, also says there is no reason for offering alcohol to anyone under the legal age.

“In general there is no good evidence that offering children or young people alcohol is a good idea  — most evidence would be against this practice,” she warns.

“The effects of alcohol often crop up in TV shows, films and news stories so this can be a good opportunity to introduce and discuss the topic with your child.”

“Parents need to look at their own regular drinking habits as their teenagers probably learn more from watching the actions of their parents than they do from listening to them.

“They should also be very conscious and confident about the daily unit guidelines for adult alcohol consumption and tailor their own drinking accordingly so that they are passing on realistic messages about what is and what isn ’t a risk when it comes to alcohol.”


 ¦ Be a role model. If you drink, do so responsibly.

 ¦ Talk about family expectations and rules about responsible alcohol use.

 ¦ Help them to make good decisions about whether or not to drink alcohol.

 ¦ Set boundaries  — even when they are broken, kids still need them to feel safe.

 ¦ Know what ’s going on in their lives.

 ¦ Encourage open dialogue about alcohol consumption.

 ¦ Talk with your teen about ways to handle peer pressure from friends to drink.