The researchers, from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the UCL Institute of Education and Pennsylvania State University, found that “well-educated parents of white children” were most likely to allow their children to drink at 14.
Some parents may believe that exposing their kids to alcohol will help them develop a healthy attitude to drinking, but the study’s lead author, Jennifer Maggs, advised against this.
“Parents of socially-advantaged children may believe that allowing children to drink will teach them responsible use or may in fact inoculate them against dangerous drinking... they appear to view alcohol use as less risky,” said Maggs.
“However, there is little research to support these ideas.”
For the study, researchers also looked at parents’ drinking habits and attitudes to drinking.
The results showed that mums and dads who were “light or moderate” drinkers were just as likely to let their children drink as those who drank heavily.
Parents who did not drink alcohol were less likely to allow their kids to drink.
According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 2017 report, English Chief Medical Officers recommend a child does not drink before the age 15, and between the ages of 15 and 18 drinking should be supervised by an adult.
Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, told The Guardian: “It is worrying to see that this advice may not be getting across to parents, who are trying to do their best to teach their children about alcohol. We need to see better guidance offered to parents via social marketing campaigns and advice from doctors and schools.”
“Alcohol can harm young people while they are still developing which is why the UK chief medical officers say an alcohol-free childhood as the best option,” Dr Jarvis explained.
“Young people’s brains are still developing and they may be more vulnerable to long-term effects on memory function, learning ability and educational achievement than adults.”
“Alcohol use during the teenage years is related to a wide range of health and social problems,” they stated. “However, if children do drink alcohol underage, it shouldn’t be until they are at least 15.”
The law states it is illegal to give children alcohol if they are under five, therefore it is not illegal for a child aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises.
Information and support for parents and children:
Alcohol Concern has an online guide on how to speak to young people about alcohol here.
Drink Aware has advice and guidance on dealing with and preventing underage drinking.
Family Lives provides help and support for anyone caring for a child. They health a wealth of information online, as well as a helpline.
Childline runs a helpline for young people who are able to get support on issues such as stopping smoking. They have guidance here.
Adfam has a map of support services for families affected by alcohol use.