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

~New Interactive Web Resource from The Treatment Research Institute and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Helps Educate Parents on State-By-State Penalties for Providing Alcohol to Teens~

New York, May 22, 2013 – 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 for Drug-Free Kids 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 for Drug-Free Kids, 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, PhD, 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 for Drug-Free Kids.

“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 for Drug-Free Kids.

“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

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About the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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 for Drug-Free Kids 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.


16 Responses

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    June 21, 2018 at 4:06 PM

    I have a 17 yr old boy whose father passed when the boy was only 12. I became his legal guardian and having known family history realized from the start that I would be preaching the word about drugs and alcohol. The father passed from Hep C, sharing heroin needles. Had been clean for 20 yrs, but too late. Mom and most of her family, alcoholics.
    Recently I find out this kid has and is drinking regularly at a friends house. For other parents who have kids who just have to spend the weekend on a regular basis with the same friend, beware. The mom and dad are your typical pushovers who are basically afraid of their own kids.
    What I just found out is these kids have been drinking there for probably a year. Should I call the police, even if it means my boy will go also. I really don’t know what to do.
    Before knowing what was actually going on at their house, I told the mom that there was alcoholism in the family and hoped that she and I would not be faced with the boys drinking. Boy was I an idiot. Little did I know she had been allowing them to drink. There are several boys on their property on a regular basis.

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      Josie Feliz

      June 21, 2018 at 4:25 PM

      Thanks for your message Deb. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly. Please do not hesitate to call our helpline at 855-DRUGFREE in the future. Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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      June 22, 2018 at 9:43 AM

      Hi Deb,
      Thanks for your email as you’ve raised an issue that many parents and caregivers face. Some families think they are doing kids a favor by allowing kids to drink in their homes so that they “can handle drinking” when they get to college. Research, however, indicates that these kids drink more than their peers who waited till 21 and they have more problems with it. Your teen is even more at risk given his genetic history of developing an addiction as you’ve noted.

      It sounds like you’ve already spoken to the mom who is hosting to share your concerns. That would have been my first recommendation. Some people will give the mom another opportunity stating that if it happens again, you will contact the police while others will make the call to the police now as she has already been warned. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to keep the kids safe.

      Aside from talking to the police or the mom, it will be important to talk to your boy about what is happening. I imagine he will think you’re a kill joy and be upset should he find out you’ve made a call to either the mom or the police. Getting him help to understand why drinking is problematic may be necessary. He’s drinking for a reason – it feels good, he can spend time with his friends, it’s rebellious, he can escape his problems for a while, etc. Regardless of the reason, it helps to figure out ways to address the underlying need(s) in a healthier way.

      In his case, it may mean helping him find other things to do or other friends to be with rather than hanging out with this group of guys.

      If you need help discussing how to go about all of this, just give us a call or chat with us and we will gladly help you figure out a plan.

      So glad you’re on top of this Deb…he’s lucky to have you in his life.

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    October 13, 2016 at 6:52 PM

    The first “fact” they post on here isn’t even supported by the source they accredited it to. I actually googled the first source on here and read the article. Not once did the study make any mention of parent giving their kids alcohol at a young age. The study was actually looking at which types of prevention methods worked best for those you started drinking young, BUT it does not say that it was the parents that gave them the alcohol. In fact it only said that participants initiated drinking at an early age, which could simply mean they started on their own or from a friend. Again, it said nothing of parents giving their kids alcohol, supervised or otherwise.

    This site completely mis-analyzed the study to “prove” a “fact” that conveniently supports their ideology (the name of this site is drugfree so they’re hardly unbiased)

    Always check the sources yourself! It may turn out to be complete BS.

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    June 29, 2016 at 2:35 PM

    Not true for many. Me and my brother were allowed to drink alcohol at home from about age 13, I’m talking a small glass at family gatherings, Christmas and birthdays. At 18 here in the uk we can legally drink, I had a short period of drinking with my friends, who all drank to excess, but me and my brother never did, there was no novelty forbidden fruit factor to it like there was to all our friends. I am now 27, I honestly can’t remember the last time I drank alcohol, my brother is also teetotal. I will allow my daughter the same when she is a teenager and have no problems with this. In many European countries is is part of normal life to allow children to drink wine with meals and those countries also have some of the lowest alcohol addiction rates, that’s not coincidence. This post is just scaremongering.

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    Thomas Hennigan

    February 16, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    Typical American puritanism and legalism. Many parents seem to have no problem with their adolescent children having sex, even in their homes which is a lot worse.

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    June 20, 2015 at 12:49 AM

    The author needs to fact check before they start twisting propaganda “facts,” especially with foreign countries they know nothing about. Just because European youth drink with their parents, doesn’t mean they are drunks and get hammered often. It’s used widely in moderation. Alcohol over here isn’t viewed as this thing just to get drunk, it’s just a drink option. Most businesses even allow you to drink beer at lunch as long as you aren’t impaired. Only in America do the stupid lead the masses

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