According to a new study, 37 percent of second graders...

According to a new study, 37 percent of second graders have sipped or tasted alcohol. Credit: istock

Most second graders believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Many play with Barbie dolls and Legos. And, according to a new study found in the Journal of Adolescent Health, about 37 percent of 8-year-olds have sipped alcohol.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh followed more than 450 children from ages 8 through 18. The kids were asked how old they were when they first sipped or tasted alcohol, had a drink, had three or more drinks in a row or were drunk.

They found that the number jumped to 66 percent by age 12. What's more, by 18, nearly all (96 percent) had sipped or tasted alcohol. And, 16 percent of 16-year-olds reported binge drinking (three or more drinks).

“The most alarming result was the fact that more than half of the children had tried sipping or tasting alcohol by age 11,” said lead author John E. Donovan, associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology in a news release.

This is concerning, Donovan added, because other research has found that early onset drinking is associated with behaviors such as binge drinking, marijuana use, delinquency, precocious sexual behavior, drinking and driving in adolescence, and substance use disorder.

"The study just confirms that we need to be talking with our children and students at a much earlier age than most would think," said Randi Alter, an expert at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington. "Most underage drinkers get their alcohol from family members or those of legal drinking age, which underscores the need to get adults to understand the risks of adolescent drinking."

Research courtesy of Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

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