Being the “cool mom” isn’t actually helping your kids’ safety—sorry Mrs. George. According to a recent study published in the journal Lancet Public Health, exposing kids and teens to alcohol at home was associated with higher odds of binge-drinking, alcohol-related harm, and symptoms of alcohol-use disorder.
While some of you are already mumbling “no shit, Sherlock,” there exists a group of parents who say offering underage teens alcohol at home reduces the chances they’ll drive drunk or seek out booze in risky situations.
But the study doesn’t bear that out. Researchers followed more than 1900 Australian children for five to six years, beginning when the students were in seventh grade (median age: 12.9 years old). They found that teens whose parents supplied them alcohol at home—be it small sips or full drinks—were more likely to end up experiencing negative drinking outcomes, such as binge-drinking or alcohol-related harm, around age 17. However, they were no more likely to end up reporting symptoms or alcohol abuse or dependence.
Parents who permit their underage kids to drink at home often do so to minimize the chances that their kids will drink at parties or bars; but the study found this isn’t the case either: “The findings also showed that parental supply of alcohol not only risks adverse outcomes itself, it also risks increasing supply from other non-parental sources.” In short, kids who drink at home are also drinking elsewhere.
What about underage kids who only drink outside the home? They had the highest instance of negative outcomes. But, researchers caution, that doesn’t mean parents should start throwing basement keggers:
Parental supply only remains associated with adverse adolescent drinking outcomes, compared with no supply, and a combination of parental and other supply was not associated with lower odds of adverse outcomes than other supply only. Thus, there was no evidence to support the view that parental supply is protective for any of the adolescent drinking-related outcomes.
Thanks, science, for bearing out the kinda-obvious: If your kids are underage, don’t supply them booze. Parents, you’ll have plenty of chances to drink with them and their awkward significant others later in life.