The drinking habits of young individuals have drastically changed over the years. Unlike previous generations, they are more likely to indulge in heavy episodic or binge (continuous/uncontrolled) drinking. This has given rise to a culture of drinking where excessive consumption is facilitated and encouraged as a part of the acceptance ceremony into adulthood. What’s more upsetting is that parents seem to be major suppliers of alcohols to adolescents, usually beginning with sips. Despite the potential harm this causes, there has been no effective research addressing the issue of parental supply, as well as the factors that influence this form of alcohol uptake, such as familial, parental, peer, and adolescent characteristics.

A recent study has found that alcohol provision, in form of few sips, to the children under parental guidance has met a failure and rather it acts as a positive reinforcement for the adolescents to fall to alcohol abuse in the future. Parents play a negative role by playing alcohol sipping game with their children. There is no validity of ‘parental guidance’ when alcohol sipping is allowed to the children under parents supervision. It causes more harm than good especially in shaping behaviors of children in longer terms.

Alcohol Abuse Among Adolescents – Alarming Statistics

Current statistics regarding the drinking habits of young people are extremely concerning, especially for late adolescence (15 to 17 years) and young adults (18 to 24 years). As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol abuse claims the lives of 2.5 million people annually around the world.

Alcohol is associated with over 60 adverse health complications and is ranked by the Global Burden of Disease Report as the third leading cause of disability and death in developed countries. Matters are even worse for the Western Pacific and the Americas, where alcohol is the leading risk factor for health consequences, and for Europeans it is the second highest risk factor.

Adverse Effects on Health

Dealing with the adversities of alcohol consumption is regarding to be more crucial than dealing with high cholesterol and obesity. More specifically, the alcohol abuse epidemic is considered to be three times more important than diabetes and five times more important than asthma.

Moreover, alcohol doesn’t just have physiological implications – it may cause serious psychological consequences as well. Caffeine being the first, alcohol is regarded as the second most widely consumed psychoactive drug around the world. Usually regarded and advertised as a mood enhancer, alcohol is in fact a depressant, making it one of the leading risk factors for depression and suicidal tendencies.

Parenting To Prevent Childhood Alcohol Abuse – A Prospective Study on the ‘Sipping’ Game

A lesser studied aspect is the encouragement and positive reinforcement of parents in providing alcohol to adolescents. Early adolescent alcohol initiation can significantly increase the risks of delinquent behavior, poor health and well-being, physical injury and various alcohol-related mental and physical disorders. This supply of alcohol generally begins as sips/tastes instead of whole drinks. By the age of 13, 60 percent of young adults have had such an initiation, significantly increasing their risk of indulging in binge-drinking.

According to a study published in Pediatrics, 1,729 parent–child duos were recruited from Grade 7 classes as part of the Australian Parental Supply of Alcohol Longitudinal Study. It was seen that parents who perceived their child was involved with substance-using peers were more likely to provide their children with sips of alcohol.

The reason behind this association could be the fact that they assumed this practice would prevent the unsupervised consumption of alcohol in huge amounts. In other cases, parents may regard alcohol consumption with peers as a normal behavior for adults of their children’s age, and hence may also consider the supply of sips as normal. Whatever the perception, further research is needed to urgently tackle this growing trend of parents providing alcohol to their children in order to fully understand parents attitude, adolescent characteristics and potential risk factors.

Parents stocks of alcohol at home, parents sipping games with the children and parents passive behavior towards alcohol use for their children are all the risk factors that can lead to alcohol abuse in the future.

What Needs To Be Done – Preventing Underage Drinking By Collaborating With Parents

Recent findings such as the ones reported above, have opened a new avenue of investigation into the issue of alcohol abuse. It is quite alarming how parental perceptions of whether their children are in the company of substance-using peers’ influences their supply of alcohol to them, in the hope that their children will then refrain from unsupervised alcohol use.

In such a situation, it is important to show the parents that this practice will do more harm than good to the overall health and well-being of their child. Further research is also needed to understand how quickly the initiation of sipping leads to whole drinks, and whether the predictors for sipping differ with adolescent age and experience with alcohol. Moreover, the issue of adolescent perception also needs to be looked into for a better understanding of how these parental sips may lead to binge drinking.

Certain key aspects that need to be addressed are:

  • Making parents aware of the potential health implications and risk factors they are exposing their children to as a result of their self-perceived beneficial sipping.
  • Empowering parents by tearing down their misconceptions regarding youth drinking. Passive or permissive parents must be educated regarding the adversities and ill-consequences of alcohol use and abuse by adolescents.
  • Providing scientific and medical arguments documented in literature to change the perceptions of parents regarding the whole alcohol abuse scenario.
  • Guiding parents to adopt a more restrictive and assertive behavior towards substance abuse, but keeping an open and welcoming approach when their children want to talk about alcohol or its consumption.
  • Teaching parents clear and simple rules on how to handle their youth’s peer-related and individual alcohol use. This involves formulating cost-effective and simple guidelines regarding parental behaviors and positive outcomes for youths. Examples include parental consensus agreements and clear non-permissive house rules.