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Kids connect alcohol odors with mom's emotions
Date:6/25/2008

PHILADELPHIA (June 24, 2008) -- How children respond to the smell of alcoholic beverages is related to their mothers' reasons for drinking, according to a new study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. When asked to choose between the odor of beer and an unpleasant odor, children of mothers classified as 'Escape drinkers' were more likely than children of Non-escape drinkers to choose the unpleasant odor.

"Children's responses to odors provide us with a window into their emotions," says study lead author Julie Mennella, PhD, a Monell biopsychologist. "When given a choice between beer and pyridine the smell of rotten eggs children of mothers who drink to relieve tension and worry choose pyridine as smelling better. That's pretty powerful."

In the study, which appears in the journal Alcohol, 145 children between the ages of 5 and 8 years were presented with seven pairs of odors. One of the odors was always beer; the others were bubblegum, chocolate, cola, coffee, green tea, pyridine, and cigarette smoke. For each pair, the children indicated which odor they liked better.

Mennella notes that because odor information travels directly to areas of the brain that deal with non-verbal aspects of emotion and memory, studying children's responses to odors provides insights into their emotional worlds.

"Like adults, children are not very good at identifying odors," she says. "However, they are good at telling us whether they like an odor or not. This study shows that whether they like the odor of beer depends not just on how often their mother drinks, but on why she drinks."

The children's mothers completed a questionnaire about their drinking habits, including their reasons for drinking; 35 were classified as 'Escape drinkers,' based on their indicating having at least two escape reasons for drinking. These included: helps to relax, need when tense and nervous, helps to cheer up when in a bad mood, helps to forget
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Contact: Leslie Stein
stein@monell.org
267-519-4707
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Source:Eurekalert

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