Does Letting Teens Drink At Home Keep Them From Binge Drinking In College?

Should Teens Drink At Home?

teens drink

teens drink. Photo courtesy of Incase.(CC Attribution)

It makes intuitive sense to many adults that allowing, or “teaching,” teens to drink at home should keep them from drinking heavily outside of the home. 

Several recent studies in the U.S. and elsewhere challenge this notion and suggest teens who are allowed to drink at home are more likely to binge drink outside of the home and are also more likely to develop problems with alcohol down the road. 

In the case of college, many adults believe that students drink heavily when they get there precisely because they were not taught how to drink beforehand. Teens often make riskier choices when they’re around their friends, so parents want them to be prepared once they leave home. 

Study Says “No”

To study this, researchers at the University of Buffalo recruited 450 female, college-bound high school seniors to participate in a study. Students were categorized as:

  1. Allowed to drink at home with meals
  2. Allowed to drink at home with friends
  3. Not allowed to drink at home

During the first semester at college, students allowed to drink at home with meals or with friends were more likely to binge drink than those not allowed to drink at home.

As parents, we often try to send one message, but our kids hear something very different. This seems to be the case when we try to keep them safe by letting them drink at home. 

Source: Livingston JA, Testa M, Hoffman JH, Windle M. (2010) Can parents prevent heavy episodic drinking by allowing teens to drink at home? Addictive Behaviors, 35(12):1105-12.

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