The Lancet Public Health: Parental provision of alcohol to teenagers does not reduce risks, compared to no supply
There is no evidence to support the practice of parents providing alcohol to their teenagers to protect them from alcohol-related risks during early adolescence, according to an NDARC study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The six year study of 1,927 teenagers aged 12 to 18 and their parents, found that there were no benefits or protective effects associated with giving teenagers alcohol when compared to teenagers who were not given alcohol. Instead, parental provision of alcohol was associated with increased likelihood of teenagers accessing alcohol through other sources, compared to teenagers not given any alcohol.
Alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for death and disability in 15-24 year olds globally. Drinking during adolescence is of concern as this is when alcohol use disorders (ie, dependence on or abuse of alcohol) are most likely to develop.
The study recruited teenagers and their parents between 2010 and 2011 from secondary schools in Perth, Sydney and Hobart. The teenagers and their parents completed separate questionnaires every year from 2010 to 2016 including information about how teenagers accessed alcohol (from parents, other non-parental sources, or both), binge drinking levels (defined as drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past year), experience of alcohol-related harm, and alcohol abuse symptoms. In the final two years, teenagers were also asked about symptoms of alcohol dependence and alcohol use disorder that could predict alcohol misuse problems in the future.
At the start of the study, the average age of the teenagers was 12.9 years old and by the end of the study the average age was 17.8 years old. The proportion of teenagers who accessed alcohol from their parents increased as the teenagers aged, from 15% (291/1910) at the start of the study to 57% (916/1618) at the end of the study, while the proportion with no access to alcohol reduced from 81% (1556/1910) teenagers to 21% (341/1618).
At the end of the study, 81% (632/784) of teenagers who accessed alcohol through their parents and others reported binge drinking, compared with 62% (224/361) of those who accessed it via other people only, and 25% (33/132) of teens who were given alcohol by their parents only. Similar trends were seen for alcohol-related harm, and for symptoms of possible future alcohol abuse, dependence and alcohol use disorders. The group of teenagers supplied with alcohol from both their parents and other sources were at the greatest risk of the five adverse outcomes, potentially as a result of their increased exposure.
Importantly, teenagers supplied with alcohol by only their parents one year were twice as likely to access alcohol from other sources the next year. As a result, the authors suggest that having alcohol supplied by parents does not mitigate risk of it being supplied by other people, and that parental provision of alcohol did not appear to help teenagers deal with alcohol responsibly.
Please visit the NDARC website to read the full media release from The Lancet Public Health.