Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Young Age for the First Sip of Alcohol Is Common

A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health takes a look at the first drinking experiences of children living in a Pennsylvania county, and the results are disturbing. The study reveals that around 37 percent of children in the county admitted to having tasted alcohol by the time they reached the age of 8 and that around two-thirds of the participants reported trying alcohol by the age of 12.

This news is particularly disturbing when you consider the fact that researchers have long been aware that people who try alcohol at an early age tend to become regular drinkers at an earlier age too. A researcher from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for example, found that individuals who sipped alcohol in childhood often became regular drinkers by the time they reached the age of 14.

The Consequences of Underage Drinking

Not only is underage drinking illegal, but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it can also come with a host of other consequences. According to the CDC, people who regularly engage in underage drinking are at a higher risk of:

  • Experiencing problems at school
  • Dying from alcohol poisoning
  • Experiencing problems with peers
  • Brain development problems
  • Legal problems
  • Drug abuse
  • Problems with physical health
  • Memory problems
  • Risky sexual activity
  • Rape
  • Car accidents
  • Alcohol-related injuries, which may be life-threatening
  • Stunted growth
  • Sexual development problems
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Physical assault 

What Can You Do?

As a parent, you undoubtedly wish to protect your child from all the consequences associated with underage drinking. The first step in doing so is to never assume that your child is exempt from alcohol abuse. Even the best-behaved child can be tempted into trying alcohol, and your social class, religious affiliation, and level of parenting have a limited amount to do with whether or not your child will try alcohol. Every child is at risk.

As such, it is your job to talk to your teen about alcohol abuse. Explain to him that, while underage, any alcohol consumption is considered alcohol abuse. Be honest with your teen about the potential consequences associated with alcohol abuse and encourage your child to be honest and forthcoming with you.

If your teen tells you that he has experimented with drinking or even that he may have a possible substance abuse problem, do not panic, yell or scold. Instead, be grateful that your teen has been honest with you and seek help for him as soon as possible. If you are not fortunate enough to have your teen discuss drinking behaviors to you, be watchful of signs that your son may be abusing alcohol and, if you suspect or have evidence of a problem, seek help for him today here at Muir Wood.