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Attributes that Differentiate Children Who Sip Alcohol from Abstinent Peers

Sipping alcohol during childhood may be a marker of differentiation as regards children's future risk of underage drinking; yet very little is known about alcohol use when it occurs among elementary school-aged children. The purpose of the present study is to examine alcohol sipping behavior in a sample of third-grade school children to learn whether sipping is associated with attributes that could increase children's likelihood of further underage drinking. We collected telephone interview data from 1,050 mothers and their third grade children (mean age 9.2 years; 48.2 % male) residing in the Southeastern United States. The majority of mothers were White non-Hispanic (69.02 %) or Black non-Hispanic (21.3 %); most (85 %) lived in households shared with fathers or other adult caretakers. We hypothesized that children who sip alcohol would score lower than abstinent peers on indicators of competence and score higher on indicators of exposure to alcohol-specific socialization by parents and peers. A multivariate model controlling for frequency of parent alcohol use and demographic covariates showed that children who had sipped alcohol were significantly less likely than abstinent peers to affirm indicators of competence and significantly more likely to affirm indicators of exposure to alcohol specific socialization by parents and by same age peers. These preliminary findings suggest that developmental attributes associated with risk of underage drinking begin to differentiate at least as young as middle childhood. Research is needed to test prospectively for continuity between alcohol risk attributes present in middle childhood and future alcohol use


Jackson, C., Ennett, ST., Dickinson, D., & Bowling, JM. (2013). Attributes that Differentiate Children Who Sip Alcohol from Abstinent Peers. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(11), 1687-1695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9870-8

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