The logic of a cool, progressive, chardonnay-enthused parent goes something like this: I do not want my young Mordecai/Susie to turn seventeen and throw an illicit keg party in my home when I attend a week-long wine-tasting tour in Napa. So, I will let Mordecai/Susie have a few sips of wine at dinner while he/she is still in grammar school, so that when he/she finally gets to high school and has to run the gauntlet of peer pressure, he/she is all like, "Pshaw, drinking is nbd — I've been boozing since I started reading Lyle, Lyle Crocodile." According to some public health analysts, however, the belief that giving kids a sippy-sip of booze at a young age will help ward off future bacchanals might be a misconception.
Public health analyst Christine Jackson, who's based at the research institute RTI International in North Carolina, told Today blogger Corey Binns that parents (moms in particular) who offer their kids a taste of alcohol are probably kidding themselves that such preemptive drinking will help safeguard their kids from binge drinking amongst their friends in a few years:
It is possible that an early introduction to alcohol, even when it is limited to sips and even when it is meant to discourage child interest in alcohol, could backfire and lead to more drinking later on.
With the help of colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jackson surveyed 1,000 mothers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Forty percent of participants believed that forbidding alcohol would only foment rebellion in their children's hearts, and at least one in five moms thought that a little sip of alcohol with dinner or maybe after a particularly ugly spelling bee performance would help inoculate young kids against the lurking dangers of peer pressure. According to Jackson, a "surprising" number (33 percent!) of third graders in the study had already tried beer, wine, or even liquor, which is a little troubling if one considers that, over the last decade, scientists have actually found that the earlier young people begin to drink, the more likely they are to develop dependence, and dependence on any substance is strictly a not very awesome thing to have, as we've all learned from watching Tender Mercies.
The best thing for parents to do, says Ralph Hingson, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, is just "delay alcohol exposure for as long as possible," possibly by pricing some nice inflatable bubbles for their kids to spend high school in, spreading friend-repelling rumors on Facebook that their kids have "all kinds of gonorrhea," or, and this one is really crazy, talking honestly to their kids about drinking. Really, there are a lot of options floating around out there, but wasting good wine on relatively small children who will just complain that it doesn't taste like grape juice probably isn't a great way to go.
Image via GeoM/Shutterstock.