PARENTS are introducing their children to booze too early, experts say.
And when it comes to giving adolescents a taste of alcohol, it’s well-educated parents who were most likely to allow them to drink before age 14.
According to a new study by Researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the UCL Institute of Education, and Pennsylvania State University, it was found that, one in six parents allow their children to drink booze by the age of 14.
The study also found that light or moderate-drinking parents were just as likely to let their children drink alcohol as heavy-drinking parents.
It suggests that many parents are misguided by letting their children consume alcohol at a younger age in an attempt to teach them to drink responsibly.
Although the results of the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, notes that just 2% of ethnic minority parents said they allowed early drinking
Given Christmas is a time when wine is often shared at the dinner table, the researchers were keen to point out that while having better educated parents is generally a protective factor, previous studies have shown that starting drinking at a young age means children are more likely to fail at school, have behaviour issues and alcohol and substance problems when they become adults.
The analysis was compiled from data on 10 000 children born at the turn of the century from the Millennium Cohort Study.
It found that 17% of parents in the UK have allowed their children to drink by the time they were 14.
In the survey, 14-year-olds themselves were asked whether they had ever tried more than a few sips of alcohol, with almost half saying yes.
When they were 11, about 14% had done so.
The study’s lead author, Jennifer Maggs, said: “Parents of socially advantaged children may believe that allowing children to drink will teach them responsible use or may in fact inoculate them against dangerous drinking.
However, there is little research to support these ideas.
“While social disadvantage predicts many long-term health problems, parents of socially advantaged children appear to view alcohol use as less risky.”
Official medical advice recommends that children don’t drink alcohol until they are at least 15.
The NHS says: “Drinking alcohol can damage a child’s health, even if they’re 15 or older.
“Beginning to drink before age 14 is associated with increased health risks, including alcohol-related injuries, involvement in violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
“If children do drink alcohol, they shouldn’t do so until they’re at least 15-years-old.”
However, this is not backed up by the law, which states children aged five to 16 are legally allowed to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises.
It is illegal for a person under the age of 18 to drink alcohol in a licenced premise, the only exception being where an adult can also buy beer, wine or cider for a child over the age of 16 if they are eating a meal together in a pub or restaurant.