Health | Did You Know

Experts Warn Parents To Stop Giving Alcohol To Children To Teach Them About Dangerous Drinking

The Loop

Christmas is a week away, and many families in the U.S. will be uncorking a bottle of their best wine.

Most parents don't think it's a big deal that children try a sip, but experts beg to differ.

Anne Atkins, a mother of five and author of the book Child Rearing for Fun: Trust Your Instincts and Enjoy Your Children, says she allowed her daughter to first taste wine when she was eight, and now that she's a teenager, Atkins has allowed her to have a little more wine during a time of celebration.

The message she's trying to send to her kids is this: "Alcohol is good for you [when] drunk and enjoyed correctly. But we have to acknowledge that booze is a huge problem in our society now," she told BBC News.

The idea here is that teenagers are going to drink alcohol at a party anyway, so if they first try it at home, they'll learn how to drink responsibly.

Current health guidelines discourage giving alcohol to minors, and urge parents to not give their children alcohol before they are 15.

But a recent study shows that many parents say to hell with these warnings.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, children who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholic as an adult than those who begin at the legal drinking age.

Despite these warnings, a study by the UCL Institute of Education at Pennsylvania State University found one in six parents allow their children to drink alcohol at the age of 14.

They found that well-educated white parents were most likely to allow their children to start drinking in their early teens, and parents who did not consume alcohol rarely let their children drink.

Professor Jennifer Maggs, who led the study, said, "Parents of socially advantaged children may believe that allowing children to drink will teach them responsible use or may in fact inoculate them against dangerous drinking. However, there is little research to support these ideas."

Previous studies have shown the correlation between underage drinking and kids who more likely to fail at school, have behavior and health issues, and alcohol and substance problems when they become adults.

People who are against children drinking at home believe that the brain of a child is at a vulnerable stage to consume alcohol.

"If you're introducing a chemical that's psychoactive, that's active on the brain," Dr. Martin Scurr, who used to allow his kids drink during special occasions, told BBC News.

"It is a critical age and we need to think carefully about that, and the fact that we can disrupt the future structure and functioning of the brain by allowing children to take alcohol," he continued.

Would you offer wine to a teenager during a festive occasion?

Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.