If children are allowed to drink alcohol at home, with their parents, will it send them down a dark path—or save them from a possible future drinking problem? The issue is a sharply divisive one, with many parents arguing that underage drinking must be avoided at all costs—even though, according to a 2009 national survey, 86% of American youths have used alcohol by the time they turn 21. A recent US government survey found that almost 6% of 12- to 14-year-olds drank alcohol in the prior month, and 16% of those got it from a parent or guardian, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“When kids under age 15 start drinking and drinking heavily, they are about six times more likely to end up with alcohol problems,” says a director of the agency that ran the survey. But a psychologist and addiction expert notes that, when it comes to that statistic, “There's a giant difference between a kid who gets totally wasted on some purloined booze in the woods with his friends, and someone who has wine at dinner with their parents or as part of a religious ceremony.” One survey appears to back his idea up: While teens who attended a party with alcohol supplied by a parent were twice as likely to binge drink or be regular drinkers, teens who drank with their parents were just one-third as likely to binge, or half as likely to drink regularly. (Read more underage drinking stories.)