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Teens who get booze at home are less likely to binge drink

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

Is letting your child have alcohol at home the key to preventing binge drinking?

Would you offer your teenager a glass of wine with dinner? Buy them a six-pack of beer when their friends come round on a Saturday night? If your answer is, "Don't be ridiculous," there's a new study that suggests giving your kids booze at home isn't the worst idea in the world.

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Most adolescents are curious about alcohol, and it can be tempting to take the hardline approach, lest our kids develop a taste for the hooch that quickly escalates into heroin addiction.

But it we relaxed our attitudes a little, we might just be able to save our kids from alcoholism. At least, that's the theory put forward by a major new study. Researchers at the UNSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre analysed data from almost 2,000 children and their parents over a four-year period. The results, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, suggest that children who are given alcohol by their parents are three times less likely to binge-drink, compared to kids who are given alcohol by someone outside the family.

The study also found that the kids whose parents gave them alcohol are statistically more likely to drink less in one sitting.

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Before you go taking your kid's orders for a nightcap, be aware that the study also found that children who are given alcohol by their parents are much more likely to be drinking full serves of alcohol by age 15 or 16. However, getting alcohol from non-family members, such as peers or other adults, also doubled the chance of adolescents drinking full serves a year later.

The research was inspired by the "European model" of introducing children to alcohol. In many European countries, including France, Spain and Italy, kids are encouraged to try small quantities of alcohol at meal times and on special occasions.

The lead author of the study, Professor Richard Mattick, was quick to stress that the message from parents to their children should be to delay drinking for as long as possible, due to the potential negative effects of alcohol consumption on developing adolescents.

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