A UK study on more than 10,000 children has found that one in six parents allows their children to drink alcohol at the age of 14 despite medical guidance suggesting that it should not be introduced before the age of 15.

The majority of these parents are well-educated, white parents, who mistakenly believe that by introducing their children to alcohol at home, they are teaching them how to drink safely. In fact, this underage drinking may have potentially dangerous implications for the children’s future, according to the researchers from University College London and Pennsylvania State University. With alcohol being more widely shared over the festive period, the study’s authors are keen to stress that children who start drinking early are more likely to struggle at school, have behaviour issues, as well as alcohol and drug abuse problems in the future.

The legal limit for purchasing alcohol in the UK is 18, but the UK Chief Medical Officer advises that an alcohol-free childhood is best and that the earliest teenagers should be allowed to try alcohol is 15. This is because before the age of 15, a child’s brain and body have not properly developed.

Across Europe, most countries share the UK’s minimum age of 18 for the purchase of alcohol. However, Albania has the lowest minimum age limit at 14; Iceland has the highest limit at 20.

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