Maybe it’s just a sip of wine, a small taste for a child wanting to try mom or dad’s adult beverage. What could it hurt, right?
According to research findings published this week, giving kids those tiny tastes could lead them to start drinking as teenagers. Brown University researchers found that kids who tasted an alcoholic beverage before they started middle school were five times more likely to have a whole drink by ninth grade, compared with classmates who had not tasted alcohol.
Young sippers were also four times as likely to binge drink or get drunk by the start of high school, the study found. And it’s often parents that provide that first sip.
Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies collected information from 561 Rhode Island middle school students over a three-year period starting from when the children started sixth grade. The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The findings are the opposite of what many people believe, including the idea that allowing a child to try an alcoholic drink will help promote safer habits as adults. Many parents offer children a taste of alcohol to promote the idea that adults can drink responsibly.
But sharing mom’s Merlot could send the wrong message to children, according to researchers.
“Younger teens and tweens may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip of alcohol and drinking one or more drinks,” Kristina Jackson, co-author of the study, told Live Science.
The bottom line: Think twice before allowing kids to wine and dine.