Many parents encourage children to have small sips of alcohol at the dinner table in the belief it will help them drink sensibly in later life.
But early exposure to small amounts of alcohol can actually increase the risk of binge drinking in later life, Australian researchers have warned.
It also offered no protective effects, the researchers said.
Parents who offered their children “sips” of alcoholic drinks increased their risks of binge-drinking a year later, the research showed.
The study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The research analysed questionnaires from 1,910 Australian school pupils, recruited in their first year of secondary school with annual surveys every year for seven years.
Lead author Alexandra Aiken said: “Whilst many parents may supply sips of alcohol to their underage children as a harm reduction strategy, results shows that supply of sips exists on a continuum of increasing risk of adverse outcomes.
“Parental supply of sips in one year was associated with increased risk of binge drinking and alcohol-related harms a year later, compared with no supply. As the quantity of alcohol supplied increased, so too did the risk of adverse outcomes.”
Sipping is the most common form of alcohol consumption among children and young adolescents, is usually supervised, and is associated with child perceptions of parental approval and familial modelling of alcohol behaviours.
Parents who offered children larger amounts of alcohol saw increased risk of binge drinking and other alcohol-related harms, the researchers said.
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“While parents supplying larger amounts of alcohol is associated with worse outcomes, even supplying relatively small quantities such as sips increases the risk of adverse outcomes for adolescents relative to no supply,” Aiken said.
“We believe there is now a strong case for the development of a parent-based intervention focussed on reducing parental provision of alcohol to their children, including the provision of sips.”