Youths whose parents allowed them to have alcohol with meals while they were growing up are less likely to develop harmful drinking patterns in the future, a new study has suggested.
The new study, led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) examined, in detail the drinking patterns and histories of 160 Italian adolescents and young adults who identified themselves as regular or heavy drinkers.
The authors concluded that the introduction of a moderate amount of alcohol in a family setting could prevent young people from binge drinking and nurture healthier drinking behaviours.
"Young people allowed alcohol with meals when growing up were more likely to never drink 5 [or more drinks] or get drunk," wrote the authors.
If they did drink more heavily, it was typically at a "later age than participants who weren't allowed alcohol in a family setting."
The researchers interviewed two groups of young people in the Italian regions of Abruzzo and Umbria.
One consisted of 80 young adults aged 25-30; the second consisted of 80 adolescents, 16 to18 years old.
"We were fortunate to be able to have such a large study sample to interview to help us understand this phenomenon," said Lee Strunin of BUSPH.
Although the results focused on Italy, Strunin said they could be applied to different countries and could "assist in the design of policies to reduce alcohol problems and harmful behavior among young people."
"Youths in these cultures learn to drink more responsibly than their U.S. counterparts because drinking is culturally normative, exposure occurs at a younger age, and alcohol is part of the fabric of family mores," said the report.
It is important to note, the authors wrote, that the study focused on youths and young adults who drank wine during a meal with their family. "In talking about drinking in the family, we are talking about meal drinking, not sitting down with your child watching the football or baseball game with a six-pack," said Strunin.
"The wine drinking is part of the meal."
The findings were published in the journal Addiction, Research and Theory.