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Kids allowed to sip alcohol are more likely to have a full drink by ninth grade, a study found

Study: Sippers are more likely to binge drink or get drunk by high school

Kids given sips may be getting mixed messages from parents, the co-author said

CNN  — 

If you’ve already allowed your kids to take a little sip of your beer or wine from time to time, you probably won’t be pleased when you hear the findings of a new report.

The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that children who had sipped alcohol by the sixth grade were about five times more likely to have a full drink by the time they were in high school and four times more likely to binge drink or get drunk.

“I don’t think parents need to feel that their child is ‘doomed,’ ” Kristina Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study, said of parents who already let their kids have sips of alcohol.

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She noted, in an email interview, that only a quarter of the sippers reported consuming a full drink by the ninth grade and that less than 10% said they got drunk.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that children know when drinking alcohol is acceptable and when it is not,” said Jackson, a research associate professor at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

The study involved surveys of 561 middle school students in Rhode Island over a three-year period. A little under a third of the students said they had sipped alcohol by the start of middle school, with most of those saying they got the alcohol from their parents at a party or on a special occasion.

Even when factoring out issues that could encourage problem drinking down the road, such as how much their parents drink, a history of alcoholism in their family or having a risk-taking personality, the children who sipped were more likely to be drinking in high school, said Jackson.

Twenty-six percent of the kids who had sipped alcohol said they had a full drink by the ninth grade versus under 6% for the kids who never sipped alcohol, the survey found. Nine percent said they had binged on alcohol (had five or more drinks at one time) or gotten drunk versus under 2% for the non-sippers.

“I would say that it is advisable not to offer your child a sip of your beverage, as it may send the wrong message – younger teens and tweens may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip and drinking one or more drinks,” Jackson said.

This latest study follows a report last year, also in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (PDF), that analyzed a number of studies all coming to the same conclusion: Offering even small amounts of alcohol to children could lead to negative outcomes.

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