Middle-schoolers who take the occasional sip of wine or beer are more likely to drink on their own as they become teens, a new study suggests. The research out of Brown University merely notes the association and isn't asserting that parents who allow the sipping are doing a bad thing, notes a post at EurekaAlert. Still, the lead researcher says it should at least sound a note of caution about the so-called European model—the idea that letting young kids indulge a little will destigmatize alcohol and make them more responsible drinkers later. "We need to be very careful not to assume that early alcohol consumption will somehow protect children or teach them how to drink safely," Kristina Jackson tells LiveScience.
Researchers followed about 560 sixth-graders in Rhode Island over three years and found that the early sippers were about five times more likely to have had a full drink by ninth grade (26% of them had done so) than their peers. They were also about four times more likely to have gotten drunk (9%) or to have engaged in binge drinking. "I think the most important thing is to make sure that children know when drinking alcohol is acceptable and when it is not," Jackson tells CNN. (Critics are worried that new powdered alcohol will make it easier for underage drinkers to indulge.)