herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Giving teens drink at home 'causes harm'

A leading doctor has warned that introducing teenagers to alcohol at home is harmful and not backed by the majority of Irish parents.

Dr Bobby Smyth, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, has backed the stance of Minister of State Roisin Shortall, who caused controversy when she expressed her frustration with parents serving alcohol to their teens, however well intentioned.

Dr Smyth told the Herald: "Most teenagers attach a lot of weight to what their parents say and request, and that is backed up by research. Parents are a really important and powerful influence on teenagers. Teenagers mightn't admit it, but when you examine it, that's what the findings indicate."

He said that where parents seem to give approval to drinking -- albeit with the best of intentions -- the bottom line is that the message teenagers have picked up is that "it's okay for me to drink".

Other teenagers who get a clear message from their parents that they are unwilling to give permission for their teenager to drink, that does exert influence. It has a restraining effect, he said.



risks

"Does it eliminate drinking? Of course it doesn't," Dr Smyth said. "But giving them permission to drink and giving them alcohol only increases the risks," he said.

Dr Smyth said: "We have published research on the views of Irish parents on this practice. This has confirmed that the majority of parents think introducing teenagers to alcohol at home is a bad idea.

"From my own experience of delivering talks to parents on teenage alcohol use, it has become clear to me that this majority of parents are very frustrated with the one in four parents who think it's good to give their children alcohol, and perceive them as letting the side down."

Rather than being simply ineffective, the introduction of teenagers to alcohol at home is actually harmful, he said.

Dr Smyth pointed out that Irish teens are "mirroring the harmful drinking practices of their elders but are starting their drinking careers about two years younger than a generation ago."

fdillon@herald.ie

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