New Research Shows Irish Parents do not Consider it Beneficial to Introduce Children to Alcohol

Posted on: 28 June 2010

New research by Trinity College Dublin researchers shows that Irish parents do not think it is beneficial to introduce children to alcohol.  The research is based on a telephone survey of a representative sample of 234 Irish parents of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years.  The Health Service Executive contributed to the funding of this study.

Early onset drinking is associated with many health and behavioural problems. Compared to their European counterparts, Irish teenagers demonstrate high rates of drunkenness and there has been a progressive fall in age of first drinking in recent decades.  The researchers sought to determine the attitudes and behaviours of Irish parents towards drinking by their adolescent children and whether there was widespread provision of alcohol to teenagers by parents.


On the issue of introducing children to alcohol in the home, one quarter (27%) viewed this as a good idea, while almost two-thirds (63%) disagreed with this practice, the remaining 10% being unsure. Only 11 % of parents reported that they had given a drink to their teenager at home. Parents who had given alcohol to their children typically did so when they reached the age of 16 or 17 years.

Ninety percent of parents indicated that they would be concerned if their teenager was to drink the equivalent of four pints of beer even once per month. Parents who drank regularly themselves, who were from higher socio-demographic groups and who lived in the East of Ireland demonstrated more permissive attitudes to teenage drinking.

Commenting on the findings, researcher, Dr Bobby Smyth and clinical lecturer with the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, School of Medicine,  TCD said :”The majority of parents across Ireland think that it is not a good idea to introduce children to alcohol. I believe that they are right to be wary of this approach as it gives a very mixed message to teenagers. Even if parents who engage in this practice model healthy alcohol use themselves, the wider social influence in Ireland remains very tolerant of drunkenness.”

Professor of Population Health Medicine, Joe Barry added:  “Our findings highlight challenges in terms of public policy formation, as those who exert most influence on policy in Ireland, including health professionals, politicians and journalists, belong to the permissive class on this issue.” The recent SLAN survey (2007) found that young adults (aged 18 to 23years) from wealthier socio-economic groups reported more frequent health problems linked to their alcohol use.

The full title of the study is as follows:

Research Publication by the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College Dublin. A telephone survey of parental attitudes and behaviours regarding teenage drinking, Bobby P Smyth, Catherine D Darker, Erica Donnelly-Swift, Joe M Barry and Shane PA Allwright, BMC Public Health, 2010; 10(1); 297.