Omnivore - Wine with a meal, and with your children

Eric Asimov has an interesting story in the New York Times this week about drinking wine at home with teenagers. In it, he learns of a study that showed that introducing wine as part of a meal to teenagers in the home could have a positive impact:

Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics than those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.

Dr. Vaillant goes on to say:

“If you are taught to drink in a ceremonial way with food, then the purpose of alcohol is taste and celebration, not inebriation,” he added. “If you are forbidden to use it until college then you drink to get drunk.”

Other experts quoted go on to say that the context of the setting is important. If the child sees the parents get drunk, then the child will see that as appropriate use of alcohol.

I grew up in a country that is much more relaxed about alcohol consumption, and where it was acceptable for teenagers to start drinking at a much earlier age (and where the drinking age is 18). My father always allowed me to taste his wine, even as a child, and once I was about 14 I was allowed to have a glass myself. I do think this instilled an appreciation and ability to taste wine rather than just swig it to get drunk. On the other hand, I saw my parents' friends and sometimes my parents drink heavily at the table and beyond. And I did spend a lot of my teenage years and 20s drinking for the express purpose of getting drunk. I'm not sure I can blame my parents or their behavior for my teenage drinking — I was fairly compelled to do whatever I could to be as stupid as possible for a while in there — but I am sure I can thank my early wine tasting and education for my palate, at least in part.

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