Parents raise kids' risk of becoming binge drinkers by giving them booze

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USA Today is reporting that a study by Lancet Public Health in Australia found that teens who were exposed to alcohol at home are more likely to drink and suffer alcohol-related harms.

Parents who give their teens alcohol, even to teach them how to drink responsibly, are more likely to do harm than good, according to a six-year study in Australia, published on Thursday (Jan 25).

According to Richard Mattick, who led the research, providing alcohol to adolescents implies that parents approve of drinking.

Dr James Nicholls of Alcohol Research UK, said: 'This study adds to the evidence that parental supply of alcohol to children is, by itself, unlikely to prevent later harms.

France and other southern European countries, for example, are famously lax in restricting access to alcohol for teens, but were all deemed "least risky" in a 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) comparative assessment of alcohol-related health problems.

The study followed nearly 2,000 Australian teens - from 12 to 18 - over a six-year period. Rather, this practice was found to increase the likelihood of teens accessing alcohol through other sources, compared to teens not given any alcohol.

Researchers also found that giving teens alcohol does not protect them from the downsides of alcohol abuse.

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The study looked at parents who allowed their children to take occasional sips and parents who provided full glasses of beers or wine.

The proportion of kids who said they had zero access - from parents or other sources - dropped over the same six-year period from four-fifths to one-fifth.

The findings show that parents don't help teens deal with alcohol responsibility by providing it to them, and doing so does not reduce the risk that they will get it elsewhere, the researchers concluded.

Dr Ruth McGovern of Newcastle University, said: 'Parents should be advised that the safest approach is not to supply alcohol to children below the legal purchase age'.

Similar trends were seen for alcohol-related harm and for symptoms of possible future alcohol abuse, dependence and alcohol use disorders.

"While governments focus on prevention through school-based education and enforcement of legislation on legal age for buying and drinking alcohol, parents go largely unnoticed", Mattick said.

"Parents, policymakers and clinicians need to be made aware that parental provision of alcohol is associated with risk, not with protection, to reduce the extent of parental supply in high-income countries, and in low-middle-income countries that are increasingly embracing the consumption of alcohol". Furthermore, the binge drinking measure (defined as drinking more than four drinks on a single occasion in the past year) was conservative, which may affect the associations identified.

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