Why Parents Should Not Provide Alcohol to Adolescents

Information sourced from NEJM Journal Watch:

Why Parents Should Not Provide Alcohol to Adolescents

Doing so increases the risk for subsequent alcohol-related problems.

To determine if parental provision of alcohol is associated with reduced risk for alcohol-related harms, investigators conducted a longitudinal study of 1927 adolescents from secondary schools in three Australian cities (mean age, 13; 45% female). Adolescents and their parents independently completed surveys annually for 6 years about source of alcohol supply and alcohol-related outcomes. At each survey, adolescents were classified as having no alcohol supply or supply from parents only, parents plus other source, or other source only. Analyses were controlled for potential confounders, such as parental alcohol consumption, family alcohol problems, and having an older sibling.

Compared with adolescents reporting no supply, those reporting parent-only supply were significantly more likely at the next survey to report binge drinking (odds ratio, 2.6), any alcohol-related harms (OR 2.5), and alcohol use disorder (OR, 2.5). Odds were even higher for adolescents whose supply was from parents plus other source or other source only. Regardless of source, there was a dose-response relationship between number of years of alcohol provision and alcohol-related harms. Parental supply was associated with doubled odds of supply from other sources at the next survey.


In a recent systematic review (Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017; 14:287), the authors (including four from the current study) concluded that parental supply of alcohol is associated with increased risk for alcohol-related harms but cautioned that the studies had significant flaws (e.g., different measures of exposure [sips versus whole drinks], publication bias). The current study avoids many of those flaws yet reaches the same conclusion, which is also consistent with conclusions from three U.S. studies. Based on current evidence, parents should not supply alcohol to their adolescent children.

Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP reviewing Mattick RP et al. Lancet Public Health 2018 Jan 25.


Mattick RP et al. Association of parental supply of alcohol with adolescent drinking, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol use disorder symptoms: A prospective cohort study. Lancet Public Health 2018 Jan 25; [e-pub].
[Free full-text Lancet Public Health article]

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