Share this post!

The legal drinking age of 21 doesn’t stop all parents from allowing underage drinking in their homes. In our prevention work, we’ve heard quite a lot of reasons of why parents choose to allow their underage kids to drink. We’ve also found that a lot of parents don’t know the facts about underage drinking. Research has come a long way regarding the effects of underage drinking and the research is very clear- there’s a lot more to worry about than drinking and driving.

Here are 5 common myths parents believe about underage drinking (click the myth to see more information and the facts):

“It’s best to teach kids to drink responsibly while they’re under their parents’ roof.”

Research actually shows that when parents give alcohol to kids, those children are more likely to get into alcohol-related trouble and they’re more likely to drink to get drunk than other young people. Giving kids a drink—even with the best of educational intentions—actually increases their risk, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In addition, when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink, they drink more and more often when they are not with their parents, according to MADD.

Also, when teens drink, they binge drink 90% of the time. So they’re not “drinking responsibly”. When teens binge drink, it puts them at a greater chance for risky sexual behavior, physical and sexual assault, unintentional accidents and even death. Click this link to learn more of the consequences of underage drinking.

“Reality is, kids are going to drink.”

In Texas, 21.2% of 7th-12th graders have ever had alcohol, according to the Texas School Survey. While we won’t be happy until that number is 0, that means 4 out of 5 Texas teens aren’t drinking. Parents shouldn’t give into peer pressure for their kids. Letting your kids drink underage isn’t worth the potential risks. Click this link for the consequences of underage drinking and this one for tips to delay drinking until 21.

“Kids with the strictest parents usually drink the most or badly because they don’t know how.”

We’ve never seen any research that supports this claim. However, we do know that kids who receive messages that their parents completely disapprove of underage drinking are 80% less likely to drink than teens who don’t, according to MADD.

However, it shouldn’t be a one-time, “I will kill you if I catch you drinking!” talk. Parents need to have ongoing, age-appropriate conversations with their kids. Kids begin to form opinions about alcohol by 8 years old, so conversations need to start early.

Teens are much less likely to drink when they’re given the facts about alcohol, clear expectations are set and communication is open. Parents need to coach their kids instead of trying to control them. You can’t control your teens when they’re not with you, but you can help them become a person who has good values and judgment.

“It's better to let my kids drink at home so they’re not driving.”

When most parents think about underage drinking, one of the only concerns is that drunk driving is dangerous. While drunk driving is very dangerous, only 1 out of 3 underage drinking deaths involve auto crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other underage drinking deaths include homicide, suicide and unintentional injuries.

Outside of death, there are many other serious consequences of underage drinking. When teens drink alcohol, they binge drink 90% of the time. Binge drinking can lead to risky sexual behaviors, physical and sexual assault and alcohol poisoning.  Click this link for more on the consequences of underage drinking.

In addition, when teens feel they have their parents’ approval to drink, they drink more and more often when they are not with their parents, according to MADD.

“Kids should be able to drink before 21 since in some countries, the legal drinking age is 18.”

Europe, where the legal drinking age is 18, has more alcoholism, young people binge drinking, injury, rape, and school problems due to alcohol than America. Since alcohol is more available there, it actually increased the proportion of kids who drink in Europe. Europe does have fewer alcohol-related car crashes. However, this can be attributed to the fact that they walk and take mass transit much more often than Americans, according to MADD.

The research is very clear though on why the legal drinking age in the US is 21— the brain is still developing until the mid-twenties and this puts adolescents at an increased risk to the effects of alcohol. When alcohol consumption interferes with this early adult brain development, the potential for chronic problems such as greater risk for alcohol addiction, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence and suicide is greater, according to US Department of Human Health and Services.

In addition, the part of the brain that enables a person to think clearly, make good decisions and control impulses isn’t developed until the mid-twenties. This is the part of the brain that says “Wait! This is a bad idea.” As Psychologist Laurence Steinberg sees it, a teenager’s brain “has a well-developed accelerator but only a partly developed brake.” This helps explain why when teens drink alcohol, 90% of the time they are binge drinking.