Children who are provided with alcohol by their parents could be at greater risk of developing drinking disorders, according to a new study in the Lancet Public Health journal.
The six-year research project carried out by a number of public health institutes and universities in Australia found no evidence to support the notion that children who are given alcohol by their parents in a controlled environment are less likely to drink harmfully.
The study involved an initial sample of 1,927 teenagers, dropping to 1,618 participants by the end of the observation period in 2016, recruited from secondary schools in Perth, Sydney and Hobart, whose alcohol consumption was monitored from ages 12 to 18.
Parental provision of alcohol was also linked to increased likelihood of teenagers accessing drink through other sources compared to children who were not given alcohol by their parents, it was found.
No protective effects
So-called controlled drinking had no protective effects, and children introduced to alcohol in this manner were no more likely to drink responsibly.
By the end of the study, 81 per cent of teenagers who accessed alcohol through their parents as well as other sources reported binge drinking, which was defined as consuming more than four standard drinks on a single occasion over the past year.
The proportion of binge drinkers out of teenagers who only had access to alcohol from a source other than their parents was 62 per cent, while children who were only given alcohol by their parents had the lowest binge drinking rate at 25 per cent.
Researchers concluded that teenagers supplied with alcohol by their parents one year were twice as likely to get drink from other sources the following year.
"This practice by parents is intended to protect teenagers from the harms of heavy drinking by introducing them to alcohol carefully, however the evidence behind this has been limited," said study lead author and University of New South Wales professor Richard Mattick.
Leads to harm
“Our study is the first to analyse parental supply of alcohol and its effects in detail in the long term, and finds that it is, in fact, associated with risks when compared to teenagers not given alcohol. This reinforces the fact that alcohol consumption leads to harm, no matter how it is supplied.
“We advise that parents should avoid supplying alcohol to their teenagers if they wish to reduce their risk of alcohol-related harms,” he added.
The article in the Lancet points out that the study findings may not be applicable to other countries with lower levels of alcohol consumption than Australia.
Latest statistics compiled by the World Health Organisation show almost identical rates of per capita alcohol consumption in Ireland and Australia between 2008 and 2010.
Levels of binge drinking in Ireland remain well in excess of international comparators, including Australia.