Busting Myths

Introducing my child to alcohol and letting them drink at home will teach them how to drink responsibly, like they do in some European countries.

There is no evidence that introducing alcohol to children and adolescents is helpful in building responsible drinking behaviours. However, there is strong evidence to support parents in holding off their child’s alcohol use for as long as possible. Young people who start drinking early are at greater risk of developing alcohol problems later on.

Some European countries have much higher rates of alcohol-related harm than in Australia. For example, the rate of alcohol-related falls, injuries, road traffic crashes, liver cirrhosis, mouth and oropharynx cancers are up to 3.5 times higher in France than in Australia. [1]


It’s better if I supply my child with alcohol rather them getting it from someone else.

Some parents provide their children with alcohol thinking that it will control the amount they consume. There is little evidence to support this belief. In many cases, young people may drink what their parents give them, plus more.

Ease of access to alcohol is a very important factor in influencing young people’s drinking. If alcohol is easy to get, people drink more. When parents provide alcohol to their children, they make it very easy for young people to access it.

It is important to be aware of the spoken and unspoken messages about alcohol that adults send to young people. Providing alcohol to adolescents can suggest approval of underage drinking and sends the message that it’s ok for young people to drink alcohol.


Most parents give their children alcohol.

Many parents do not give alcohol to their children.

Sometimes parents feel pressure – from their children or other parents – to provide alcohol to young people. If you decide to delay your child’s alcohol use, you will not be alone, as many other parents have made the same decision.

Talking openly with other parents about the importance of delaying young people’s alcohol use will help to raise awareness and stimulate important discussions. You may be surprised how many other parents feel the same way!

It is important to discuss alcohol with your child from an early age to ensure they understand what is expected of them. [2]


Young people are always going to drink, no matter what we do.

Parents have an important role in reducing their child’s use of alcohol. However, the role of parents must be supported by the broader drinking culture, including the ways in which alcohol is promoted and viewed.

Limiting access to alcohol and clearly communicating your disapproval of your child drinking alcohol are actions that have been shown to have an important impact on young people’s alcohol use. [3]

Reducing young people’s use of alcohol is an important and achievable aim.


My children are going to start drinking sooner or later. I may as well let them drink at home now.

There is no evidence to support parents introducing young people to alcohol in the home as a method of teaching responsible drinking. In fact, starting drinking at an early age has been shown to increase the likelihood of alcohol-related problems later in life, including more regular use of alcohol in greater quantities. [4]

The good news is that the number of young people who don’t drink has increased. However, those who do drink are drinking at more harmful levels.

There is strong evidence to support parents in holding off their child’s alcohol use for as long as possible. The longer young people delay drinking, the less likely they are to develop problems with alcohol later on. [4]


My children are young adults now. As a parent, I don’t have as much influence over them as their friends do.

The evidence tells us that what parents do, how they communicate their expectations to their children and whether they supply alcohol does influence their children’s choices. [2]

The critical role of parents continues as children become young adults, and includes knowing where your children are, who they are with, making sure they understand your expectations (e.g. about staying in touch, the time they are expected home, consequences for when family rules are broken) and what to do if they need help. [2]

In addition, a parent’s own relationship with alcohol influences young people’s drinking behaviours. Evidence shows that parental modelling of drinking – that is, adolescents learning drinking behaviours by observing them from their parents – is associated with starting to drink earlier and increased alcohol use later on. [3]


Alcohol isn’t as much of a worry as cannabis or other drugs.

Alcohol is a drug – it is a legal drug that has the potential to cause a wide range of short and long-term harms. Alcohol is readily available and very accepted in Australian culture. Alcohol is also heavily promoted and available at low cost in forms that are highly appealing to young people.

A major national survey in 2010 found that 6% of 14 to 17 year olds and 16% of 18 to 19 year olds had used an illicit drug in the last month (cannabis was the most common drug reported). [5]

The same survey found that one-third (33.1%) of 14 to 19-year-olds drank amounts that placed themselves at risk of an alcohol-related injury at least once a month. [5]

A survey of 18 to 19 year old Australians’ use of alcohol and other drugs in the previous 12 months showed that 86.3% had consumed at least one serve of alcohol and 21.3% had used cannabis. [5]

[1] World Health Organisation (2004). Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004. Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Geneva. Available at: http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_status_report_2004_overview.pdf 

[2] Allsop, S. (2012). How to set teens up for a healthy relationship with alcohol. Available at: http://theconversation.edu.au/how-to-set-teens-up-for-a-healthy-relationship-with-alcohol-7370

[3] Ryan, S., Jorm, A., Lubman, D. (2010). Parenting factors associated with reduced adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 44:774–783.

[4] National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol: Commonwealth of Australia. Available at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/ds10

[5] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2013). National Drug Strategy Household Survey report. Drug statistics series no. 25. Cat. no. PHE 145. Canberra: AIHW.