A study by the University of Pittsburg has found that “Nearly 40% of children aged 8 to 10 have sipped or tasted alcohol, whereas only 6% have ever had a drink of alcohol”.
In their study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan conducted a phone survey with a random sample of 452 children (214 boys, 238 girls), aged 8 or 10, and their families. The researchers asked the children about their experiences sipping or tasting alcohol and their perspective on their parents’ behaviour and beliefs about alcohol. The researchers then interviewed the parents separately.
“If one only asked about drinks, one would have the impression that few children at these ages have had experience with alcohol, whereas the reality is that nearly seven times as many have had some experience,” Donovan said. “Second, alcohol is most often sipped by children in the family context or during religious services, and almost never with friends or when alone. Third, children in families in which the parents drink are more curious and more likely to have sipped or tasted alcohol as young as age eight or 10.”
A third of the mothers and half of the fathers whose children have sipped alcohol are not aware of it. The researchers said the results imply that children’s drinking behaviour is learned from their observation of their parents drinking, but the researchers noted that sipping or tasting alcohol at a young age is not correlated with other problem behaviours.
The research is the first in a series of studies planned for this group of families, with the intent of exploring the way in which family attitudes and drinking behaviour may affect children’s choices.
Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (2008, January 6). Children Are Introduced To Sipping And Tasting Alcohol