Researchers from the UW Social Development Research Group, the Univ. of Minnesota School of Nursing, and the Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne, Australia found that allowing adolescents to drink alcohol under adult supervision does not appear to teach responsible drinking as teens get older. In fact, such a “harm-minimization” approach may actually lead to more drinking and alcohol-related consequences.
The study compared two approaches toward teen drinking. In one approach, parents allow their adolescent children to consume alcohol in small amounts on occasion if an adult is present. The thinking is that teens will learn to drink responsibly if introduced to alcohol slowly in a controlled environment. This has been the predominant approach in many countries, including Australia.
A second approach is one of “zero tolerance” for youth drinking, meaning that teens should not be allowed to drink alcohol under any circumstances. This less permissive position is predominant in the United States, with local laws and national policies often advocating total abstinence for adolescents.
Citation: McMorris BJ, Catalano RF, Kim MJ, Toumbourou JW, Hemphill SA. Influence of family factors and supervised alcohol use on adolescent alcohol use and harms: Similarities between youth in different alcohol policy contexts. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2011;72(3): 418-428.