Responsible drinking: it doesn’t start at home

A new study has found regular teen drinking leads to alcohol dependency and substance abuse in adulthood.

But some of the Australian parents who give their teenagers a sneaky beer or glass of wine at a family function, in the belief it will encourage them to be sensible with their drinking, disagree.

The research, lead by a team from the University of New South Wales and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, concluded that adolescents who drink weekly before the age of 17 are two to three times more likely to binge, drink drive and be dependent on alcohol as adults than those who abstain.

“We believe the study disproves the myth that teens experimenting with alcohol promotes responsible drinking,” said co-author Prof George Patton.

However, Sharon Barnes, who lives in Yowie Bay, in southern Sydney, said: “I know my kids are going to drink anyway. I would much rather they do it under my roof, where I know they are safe.” She allows her two daughters to drink wine and beer when she and her husband are drinking.

“The study is interesting, but I think other factors would need to be taken into account,” said Ms Barnes.

(Video: Commonwealth Government’s National Alcohol Campaign)

Conducted over 17 years, the research looked at the drinking patterns of 9,000 young Australians and New Zealanders between 13 and 30. The academics suggested that discouraging or delaying alcohol consumption in adolescence was likely to prevent harmful drinking behaviours.

Mary Gaines, from Miranda, also in southern Sydney, allows her teenagers to drink Vodka Cruisers and Bacardi Breezers at parties if there is adult supervision. “Experimenting with adulthood is exciting for kids. If they are going to do it anyway, I’d rather I keep an eye on them,” she said.

“I don’t want my daughter fooling around with her boyfriend at such a young age, but I feel more comfortable knowing they are under my roof rather than in a park somewhere.”

Interestingly, the study found there was no distinct association between adolescent drinking and sexual risk-taking, early parenthood or mental health problems.

In a 2016 report, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted increased public support for raising the minimum age for purchasing alcohol from 18 to 21. – @livingstone_tj