Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Socialization and Drinking Behavior

A very interesting NYT article Can Sips at Home Prevent Binges? by wine and dining writer Eric Asimov eplores the question as to whether parents can teach responsible wine drinking to teenagers through introducing them to wine as part of meals and celebrations while condemning drunkenness. Asimov cites some solid research that suggests that

“If you are taught to drink in a ceremonial way with food, then the purpose of alcohol is taste and celebration, not inebriation,” he [Dr. George E. Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University] added. “If you are forbidden to use it until college then you drink to get drunk.”

I would maintain, based on experience, that not only can parents teach responsible wine drinking, but that young people who have learned such behavior at home can teach it to peers in college.

I grew up in a teetotaling home, where no alcohol was present. At 18 I left home to go to college 2500 miles away, where there was little adult supervision and alcohol was readily available. However, the young people who made up my friendship circles from freshman year on, were all raised in upper middle class homes where the drinking of wine had been integrated into family meals and celebrations, while drunkenness had been highly discouraged. Consequently, their college drinking behavior, although unsupervised by adults (and underage) was responsible and did not lead to drunkenness or excess. As part of these social groups, I learned to view wine drinking as an appropriate part of a fine meal, not as a path to getting "blitzed."

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