UB Research Scientist looks into whether kids should be allowed to drink at home

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A University at Buffalo Scientist is tackling a question on many parents minds: should kids be allowed to drink alcohol at home in moderation?

Some parents do allow their kids to have wine or beer at home, hoping if they drink in moderation with their family they may be less likely to binge on their own and therefore decrease their chances for future alcohol-related problems. Now, new data says it depends on the type of home.

Ash Levitt is a Research Scientist Research with the Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo. He uses data from a 15 year time span. The research polls over 700 parents and more than two thousand kids from the Buffalo area.

Levitt said, “The biggest thing we found is, that kids being allowed to drink at home is not inherently protective or risky. But, it really depends on the family structure which is defined as intact or not intact.”

An “intact” family is where kids grow up with both biological parents. “non-intact” are blended or single parent family environments. In this study, kids in intact families who were allowed to drink at home showed the lowest levels of alcohol use and problems over time. That’s compared to non-intact families who showed the highest levels. Kids who weren’t allowed to drink, regardless of family structure, fell somewhere in the middle. Levitt says these patterns can make a lasting impact.

“These are effects that start when they are teenagers and continue into their early thirties, so these effects don’t go away they can still have a meaningful impact later in life,” said Levitt.

He said kids from intact- families did better because it’s easier to monitor with two parents on hand. He said it is a reminder of the importance of communication.

“Parents just need to be in touch with their kids lives. They just need to know what their kids are doing, and there needs to be effective two-way communication between parents and kids.”

A father of two said he will have a no tolerance alcohol policy when his kids grow up.

Charlie Ashker from Niagara Falls said, “I would say it has very bad influence, and you’re setting quite a precedent for your young children.”

One mother of four agrees, and said she wants to set a good example for her kids so she doesn’t drink at home either. But up to 30 percent of parents allow their children to drink at home. Levitt says when it comes to this controversial issue, his studies aren’t over yet.

“I think there’s a lot left to learn about these types of things especially as they play out over long periods of time,” he said.

It’s important to note this research doesn’t pin-point how much the families studied were allowing their kids to drink. Levitt says he will now look to fine tune some of these points.

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