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Sipping Alcohol

Learn how first sips at home lead to experimenting later
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The Phases of Sipping

Phase #1: Sipping

Sips or tastes of alcohol at home introduce kids to drinking. This can include sipping champagne at a celebration, tasting beer foam, or having liqueur poured over ice cream. (1) 


The simple act of letting a child sip a drink starts a process that unfolds over several years. With the first sip, children have been allowed to practice a brand new behavior. The next time kids want a sip, parents may find it hard to refuse what they have already allowed.


Over time, a pattern gradually builds toward more alcohol use. How often and how much they sip increases very gradually. By 7th grade, when most children are 12 years old, many children have been having small amounts of alcohol off and on for years.


Myths & Facts

Are there any benefits to giving children sips of alcohol?
Myth #1:

“By giving children sips of alcohol, parents can satisfy curiosity and take away the ‘forbidden fruit’ attractiveness of alcohol.”
Myth #2:

“By letting children sip drinks at home with parents, children can learn to drink alcohol responsibly when they’re older.”
Myth #3:

“Letting children try alcohol at home will make them less likely to accept friends’ suggestions to try alcohol in middle school.”
Myth #4:

“Children in Europe drink alcohol from a young age, and they have fewer drinking problems.”
Myth #5:

“Letting children sip alcohol will stop them from wanting alcohol because they will not like the taste.”
When Why References


  1. Donovan, J. E., & Molina, B. S. (2008). Children's introduction to alcohol use: sips and tastes. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 32(1), 108–119. 

  2. Zucker, R. A., Donovan, J. E., Masten, A. S., Mattson, M. E., & Moss, H. B. (2008). Early developmental processes and the continuity of risk for underage drinking and problem drinking. Pediatrics, 121 Suppl 4(Suppl 4), S252–S272.

  3. Wilson et al, 2002

  4. Hawkins, J. D., Graham, J. W., Maguin, E., Abbott, R., Hill, K. G., & Catalano, R. F. (1997). Exploring the effects of age of alcohol use initiation and psychosocial risk factors on subsequent alcohol misuse. Journal of studies on alcohol, 58(3), 280–290.

  5. Ellickson, P. L., McCaffrey, D. F., Ghosh-Dastidar, B., & Longshore, D. L. (2003). New inroads in preventing adolescent drug use: results from a large-scale trial of project ALERT in middle schools. American Journal of Public Health, 93(11), 1830–1836.

  6. DeWit, D. J., Adlaf, E. M., Offord, D. R., & Ogborne, A. C. (2000). Age at first alcohol use: A risk factor for the development of alcohol disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(5), 745–750.

  7. Hingson, R. W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M. R. (2006). Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: age at onset, duration, and severity. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 160(7), 739–746.

  8. Gruber, E., DiClemente, R. J., Anderson, M. M., & Lodico, M. (1996). Early drinking onset and its association with alcohol use and problem behavior in late adolescence. Preventive medicine, 25(3), 293–300. 

  9. Brown, S.A.; Tapert, S.F.; Granholm, E.; and Delis, D.C. Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: Effects of protracted alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 24:164–171, 2000. PMID: 10698367

  10. Colder, C. R., Shyhalla, K., & Frndak, S. E. (2018). Early alcohol use with parental permission: Psychosocial characteristics and drinking in late adolescence. Addictive behaviors, 76, 82–87.

  11. Murphy, M. A., Dufour, S. C., & Gray, J. C. (2021). The association between child alcohol sipping and alcohol expectancies in the ABCD study. Drug and alcohol dependence, 221, 108624.

  12. Beck, K. H., & Treiman, K. A. (1996). The relationship of social context of drinking, perceived social norms, and parental influence to various drinking patterns of adolescents. Addictive behaviors, 21(5), 633–644.

  13. Patrick, M. E., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2010). Alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking prevalence and predictors among national samples of American eighth- and tenth-grade students. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 71(1), 41–45.

  14. Yap, M. B. H., Cheong, T. W. K., Zaravinos-Tsakos, F., Lubman, D. I., & Jorm, A. F. (2017). Modifiable parenting factors associated with adolescent alcohol misuse: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 112(7), 1142–1162.

  15. ESPAD Group (2020), ESPAD Report 2019: Results from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, EMCDDA Joint Publications, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. 

  16. Lee, C. K., Corte, C., Stein, K. F., Feng, J. Y., & Liao, L. L. (2020). Alcohol-related cognitive mechanisms underlying adolescent alcohol use and alcohol problems: Outcome expectancy, self-schema, and self-efficacy. Addictive behaviors, 105, 106349.

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