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Myths Debunked: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home Leads to Real Consequences for Both Parents and Teens

NEW YORK, May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While many parents may think that allowing their teens and their teens' friends to drink at home under adult supervision keeps kids safe and leads to healthier attitudes about drinking, the truth is that there are serious negative consequences for both parents and teens. The Partnership at and The Treatment Research Institute (TRI) today announced the launch of a new, interactive web resource for parents and caregivers to help inform them about one of those negative consequences: parents' legal liabilities if they serve alcohol to teens.

Recognizing the value, particularly at prom and graduation season, of giving parents and caregivers free access to this important information, "Underage Drinking In The Home," provides a state-by-state outline of the legal liabilities for adults who serve alcohol to minors. This new resource was created as part of the Parents Translational Research Center, a collaboration between The Treatment Research Institute and The Partnership at, and the first ever National Institutes of Health-funded initiative focused on developing research-based resources for parents around issues of adolescent substance use/abuse.

Unfortunately, many parents subscribe to common myths and misperceptions related to underage drinking:

Myth: Some parents think that providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as teens get older, and subsequent drinking problems later in life. Truth: The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.[1]

Myth: Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts. Truth: A greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly (in the past 30 days) versus American youth, and for a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of young people report having been intoxicated before the age of 13 than is the case in the U.S.[2] The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.[3]

Myth: Some parents believe that being 'too strict' about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave the home and do not have as much parental oversight.  Truth: New research from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are MORE likely to abuse alcohol and to use other drugs.[4]

Myth: Parents who serve alcohol to teenagers at home are under no legal jeopardy. Truth: A majority of states have civil and or criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to underage kids at home.

New Web Resource Helps Educate Parents on State-By-State Liabilities of Providing Alcohol to Teens

The new resource, which can be found at features an interactive map of the United States and explains each state's "social hosting" laws in detail, while outlining the civil and criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to minors. For the purposes of this tool, social hosting was interpreted as broadly as possible: defined as "when an individual over the legal age (18 or 21) serves, furnishes or permits the possession or consumption of alcohol to a person underage (generally 20 years or younger) on property for which s/he has responsibility."[5]

The launch of the resource comes amid prom and graduation season, already underway across the country, and a time when many parents will face the decision of whether or not to allow underage teens to drink alcohol in their homes.

Underage drinking continues to be a pervasive problem among American youth. According to the latest Monitoring The Future study of 8th, 10th and 12th graders:

  • Nearly half of teens (44 percent) have consumed alcohol within the past year, while more than one in four teens (26 percent) reports having been drunk in the past year.
  • More than a quarter of teens (26 percent) said they had consumed alcohol within the past month, while more than one in seven (15 percent) reported being drunk in the past month.
  • One in seven teens (14 percent) said they have had five or more drinks in a row within the past 2 weeks.
  • More than three-quarters of 10th graders (78 percent) say it is fairly or very easy to get alcohol if they want some and more than half of 8th graders (58 percent) say the same.

Leaders in the Treatment of Substance Abuse and Addiction, Parents and Coaches Weigh in on Underage Drinking:

"Adolescence is a time of growth and great potential but it is also a time of risk-taking and experimentation with drugs and alcohol, which can quickly get out of hand. At no other time in human development is the risk for developing a substance use disorder so high. As parents help their children navigate the often tricky waters of this developmental period, especially regarding substance use and its potentially devastating consequences, being armed with accurate information is their best line of defense. Our goal through this collaboration, and the development of this tool and others like it, is to provide critical, research-based information to parents about the realities, liabilities and potential consequences of adolescent substance use." – Kathleen Meyers , Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Treatment Research Institute.

"Childhood drinking is foremost a health issue. Many well-intentioned parents think that supplying alcohol for their child to drink at home may teach them how to 'drink responsibly' and might prevent them from drinking elsewhere. But the truth is that early consumption of alcohol in any context increases the likelihood of harmful effects in the long run. What's more, studies have shown that when parents supply alcohol to their kids, it actually increases the risk for continued consumption during childhood and lifetime problem drinking. Drinking in the home does not prevent children from drinking outside the home or with their friends." – Steve Pasierb , President and CEO of The Partnership at

"As someone, but especially as a mom, in recovery from alcohol abuse, I know firsthand that drinking at an early age can have some pretty serious consequences. There really is no safe way for teenagers and underage kids to drink alcohol. Parents – even well-intentioned parents – who allow kids to do so in their homes are under the false sense of security that it's less dangerous. But there's more harm than good in their actions." – Melissa Gilbert , actress, bestselling author and spokesperson for The Partnership at

"MADD knows from previous research that parents are the number one influence on their children's decisions about alcohol, so it's imperative that we as parents have frequent conversations with our kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Parents need to clearly define their expectations about not drinking alcohol before age 21, and then be consistent by never providing alcohol to someone who is underage." – Jan Withers , National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD is a nonprofit that works to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking.

"As a parent and coach, I have personally seen the effects of underage drinking and how it has impacted players in their performance – often as a result of families turning a blind eye or allowing players to consume alcohol at an early age. The effort to counsel young athletes on the physical and mental impacts of alcohol is challenging when they go home to face non-supportive parents. All athletes, including teen athletes face personal challenges, but our goal is to captivate them through sports, hopefully enough, to help them better understand and avert their various detractions." – Ed Spencer , Teen Recreation Director for mid-size community in New Jersey, member of the board of Education, AAU basketball coach and father.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, please call the Parents Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE. To learn more visit

About The Partnership at

Ninety percent of addictions start in the teenage years. The Partnership at is dedicated to solving the problem of teen substance abuse. Together with experts in science, parenting and communications, the nonprofit translates research on teen behavior, addiction and treatment into useful and effective resources for both individuals and communities. Working toward a vision where all young people will be able to live their lives free of drug and alcohol abuse, The Partnership at works with parents and other influencers to help them prevent and get help for drug and alcohol abuse by teens and young adults. The organization depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector and is thankful to SAG-AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, please call The Parents Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE.

About The Treatment Research Institute

Treatment Research Institute (TRI) is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to engineering scientific findings into practical solutions for substance abuse problems. Since being established in 1992, TRI has been at the forefront of the substance abuse field with the belief that in order for research to be truly impactful, it must effectively be translated into improved programs, practices and policies. Through work with families, schools, the criminal justice and healthcare systems and the community, TRI strives to change the way addiction is perceived and managed. Support from individuals, foundations and the public sector make it possible for TRI to extend scientific advances into the communities that are most affected by substance use problems. TRI gratefully acknowledges the National Institute of Drug Abuse for its funding of the Parents Translational Research Center.

[1] Dawson, et al., 2008; Grant and Dawson, 1997; Hingson et al., 2006; Winters and Lee, 2008

[2] U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, "Youth Drinking Rates and Problems: A Comparison of European Countries and the U.S. and Kelly, Chan, O'Flaherty, 2012"

3 Global Status Report: Alcohol and Young People, 2001

[4] Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2012

[5] All statutes, regulations and case law that were centered on social hosting of alcohol parties were included in the creation of the tool.

SOURCE The Partnership at
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