It is said (among those that I know) that allowing a minor to consume some alcohol actually encourages responsible behavior when older. The explanations vary, but most have concluded that the removal of the stigma removes the mysticism from the product and therefore decreases the desirability. This is followed by the argument that this will encourage the child to learn to drink responsibly in the home as opposed to in a less controlled environment.

I am aware of a relationship to this question, but that has to do with legality over illegality. I am more interested in stigma.

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    It's a common claim in countries where there is no drinking age.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 19:55
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    @Sklivvz It is a common claim among those who wish to change the drinking age too. Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 19:58
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    @LarryOBrien They may be flip sides to the same coin, but as a parent, I am definitely curious about what effect my portraying alcohol in a negative light will have when my kids are old enough for it to matter. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 22:01
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    @Sklivvz Due respect to other parents, but this is exactly the type of thing which should not be asked on parenting -- it is extraordinarily difficult to get an objective opinion, let alone hard facts, on this topic, especially if someone's kids are involved. Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 3:52
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    "allowing a minor to consume some alcohol actually encourages responsible behavior when older." - What i have read suggested that demonstrating responsible behavior consistently as a parent was the effective strategy. If you get drunk and act stupid even occasionally then the lesson your kid takes away that its OK to get drunk and act stupid.
    – Chad
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


According to this study, it's a poor strategy:

Adult-supervised settings for alcohol use resulted in higher levels of harmful alcohol consequences, contrary to predictions derived from harm-minimization policy. Findings challenge the harm-minimization position that supervised alcohol use or early-age alcohol use will reduce the development of adolescent alcohol problems. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 72, 418–428, 2011)

Influence of Family Factors and Supervised Alcohol Use on Adolescent Alcohol Use and Harms: Similarities Between Youth in Different Alcohol Policy Contexts. McMorris et al.

I also found this 2008 newspaper article that's clearly referring to a different study and which also warns against it. But I could not track down that study via the NIAA Website.

  • I think this might be the paper referenced.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 8:40
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    I wonder whether there has ever been a decent meta-analysis of such studies. Last time I checked almost every study about alcohol policy was biased, poorly conducted or both. And I'm sure I've read exactly the opposite advice from a study.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 13:13
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    Meh... I bet if they compared more than two countries the results would be less striking. In other countries without strict anti-drinking regulations (think Southern Europe), and with much less "pub culture" (think France, Italy) alcohol consumption is most often accompanied with food consumption. You don't go to the pub to get wasted on a few too many beers. You rather go to a "bar à vin" to taste some wine, and have some tapas with it. Or buy a nice bottle at a restaurant. It's not a matter of policy, it's more of a matter of the cultural approach to alcohol.
    – nico
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 12:39

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