Obtaining alcohol can be quite the game for teenagers and adolescents. Some children steal it from their parents and some children get it from their parents. The struggle to toe the line between healthy freedom and strict rules is something that many parents struggle with. Allowing alcohol consumption is one issue that falls perfectly into this category.

Some parents feel that allowing their teenager to drink under parental supervision is much safer than forcing them to sneak it, drive or make risky decisions while under the influence of alcohol. Other parents feel that abstinence and teaching children to stay away from alcohol is a much better approach.

One research team decided to examine these two sides to try to determine what is actually better. But the results seem just as split as the two camps. According to the data, children who are given alcohol are more likely to drink, but not to excess. Children who receive alcohol from friends or steal it from their parents are more likely to binge.

“Parental supply of alcohol to adolescents was associated with increased risk of drinking, but not bingeing. These parentally-supplied children also consumed fewer drinks on a typical drinking occasion. Adolescents supplied alcohol from non-parental sources had greater odds of drinking and bingeing,” explained researchers.

So, parents that want to avoid dangerous binge drinking may look at this information and feel that introducing their child to alcohol is much better than a friend or a peer doing the introductions. However, there is another side to the story.

While reduction in binge drinking is important, there are some dangerous risks in providing alcohol to teenagers, mainly because of their developing brain. “Exposing a child to alcohol at such an early age may predispose the child to consume alcohol later on in life. Because whatever the brain is fed at that point is ingrained,” commented psychiatrist Njeri Muigai. In recent years it has been discovered that the brain develops until a person turns 30. Introduction to alcohol as a teenager can cause the brain to rely on it and subsequently alter the way it develops.

For many parents this study proves just how difficult it is to police underage drinking, no matter what approach it used.