• Article

Letting children sip: Understanding why parents allow alcohol use by elementary school–aged children

Objectives To investigate prosipping beliefs about alcohol among parents and the relations among these beliefs, parents' alcohol-specific attitudes and practices, and children's reports of initiation of alcohol use.

Design Telephone interview study of parent-child dyads. Data for the present study are from the baseline interviews of a 4-year intervention trial.

Setting Southeastern United States.

Participants One thousand fifty pairs of mothers or mother surrogates and their third-grade children who were recruited for the 4-year intervention trial.

Main Outcome Measures Key measures from parents included prosipping beliefs (ie, beliefs that sipping alcohol has protective consequences for children), attitudes about children's sipping, and parenting practices that affect children's opportunity to try alcohol. The key measure from children was experience sipping beer, wine, or other types of alcohol.

Results The belief among mothers that allowing children to sip alcohol can have protective consequences for children, including making children less likely to drink as adolescents and making them better at resisting peer influence to drink, ranged from approximately 15% to almost 40%. Alcohol use was reported by 32.8% of children. A strong, significant association was found between parental prosipping beliefs and children's reported alcohol use.

Conclusions The notion that early exposure to alcohol can be beneficial has a strong foothold among some parents of elementary school–aged children. More research is needed to understand how parents acquire prosipping beliefs and to test messages that effectively modify such beliefs and associated prosipping attitudes and practices among parents.


Jackson, C., Ennett, ST., Dickinson, D., & Bowling, JM. (2012). Letting children sip: Understanding why parents allow alcohol use by elementary school–aged children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 166(11), 1053-1057. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.1198