Good News – Your Kid Has Early Verbal Skills, Bad News – He’s Going To Drink More

shutterstock_64108045__1379174260_142.196.156.251If you have a child with early verbal skills you may be a little disturbed by a new study that links these skills with an increased propensity to drink in adolescence. Or you may just realize that however dangerous and illegal it is – drinking is a rite of passage for most kids that all parents eventually have to deal with.

It’s really not that shocking, actually. When I first read this I thought it made sense. I mean, if your child has early verbal skills he is inclined to talk more. Children who talk more are inclined to be more social. Children who are more social are inclined to grow up with more friends. By the time you get to high school more friends means party time, right?

Researchers looked at data collected from twins in Finland when they were children, teens and young adults. The data collected included information from parents about the twins’ ages when they started speaking words, learning to read and using expressive language skills in school. The twins provided information on drinking, intoxication and alcohol-related problems when they were teens and young adults.

“Specifically, we found that better childhood verbal development — as indicated by an earlier age of speaking words, learning to read earlier or having better expressive language skills in school age — was often predictive of a higher likelihood of engaging in more frequent drinking and intoxicating across adolescence.”

The twins were more likely to have friends who drank in adolescence if they were more verbally advanced at a younger age. More verbally advanced kids are also more likely to have the trait for “sensation seeking.”

I personally think that experimenting with alcohol is just a rite of passage for all teenagers, whether they have strong verbal skills or not – so I wouldn’t worry too much about a study like this. I think parenting comes into play here, big-time. Let your kids know the dangers of alcohol – don’t pretend like experimenting with alcohol is something your kids would “never do.”

One of the study’s authors, Antti Latvala, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki also points out that the study isn’t indicating alcohol abuse in highly verbal children:

Although teens with good language may experiment with drinking earlier than their peers, better verbal and intellectual abilities also have been found to be protective against developing severe problems with alcohol and other substances in adulthood, he said.

(photo: Poznyakov/ Shutterstock)

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  • LET

    I tend to agree with you that alcohol is just something I’m expecting to deal with, and I’m not really worried.
    Hubby & I have a very European view of alcohol, anyway. We enjoy it with meals, and we’ll probably start our son off with small glasses when he’s in his teens, so he can see that alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly. Not that I think we’ll be totally safe from him binge drinking at some point, but we’ll deal with that as needed at the time, no big deal.

  • Justme

    A few months ago I had to make a run to the liquor store and had my 2.5-year-old in tow. We walked in and she saw the rows and rows of wine bottles and she exclaimed, “Momma buy wine?!”

    Highly verbal or not, I think I’m doomed.

  • Jessie

    I call shenanigans. I was an early talker AND an early reader and not only am I almost completely antisocial, I also don’t drink but maybe twice a year, and even then we’re talking two small drinks and I’m done. This just sound like another one of those cockamamie “studies” they do to freak people out over nothing.

    • Rachel Sea

      “More likely” is not “all.”

  • Amber

    What a stupid, useless, bullshit study that will never help anyone.

    • Emmali Lucia

      If these children with early verbal skills also have alcohol in their genes then this is a bit ground-breaking. This will help parents keep an eye-out for their child and make sure to have the alcohol talk a bit earlier than they might have been planning.

    • Amber

      If you approach talks about alcohol differently because your child spoke early, you’re a bad parent.

      Think about it. Are you really going to label one kid as the most likely drunk based on who said “cookie” first? That’s screwed up. It’s a disservice to any children in the family who were late talkers that they won’t get the same information and it’s insulting to the early talker.

    • Melissa

      I would argue that modifying your parenting style based on your child’s individual personality type and temperament is the very definition of good parenting. “Good” parents realize that there isn’t one “best” or “cookie-cutter” way to teach, discipline, and interact with their children, and they further realize that different approaches often need to be taken with different siblings within the same family. Some strategies that are effective for one child are not going to be as effective for another child. I agree with the PP that if alcoholism is also in the genes, then this may indicate that a different strategy needs to be employed for these particular children – if the link between early verbal skills and early alcohol use is strong, which needs to be confirmed by further studies.

      I also think it’s a bit irresponsible to dismiss a study as “stupid” and “useless” based on one Mommyish article that summarizes another article that summarizes the study, especially when the original article probably focused on only one of several results from said study. I have not read the original study, and I wouldn’t pass judgement on its merits before I had done so.

  • Sherlock

    Pssh, they’ve also shown that people with higher intelligence drink more alcohol. I’m a scientist, and no one puts it away like people who think for a living. If alcohol/intelligence is related, then this is completely unsurprising.

    • ElleJai

      Odd. I’ve noticed factory workers/manual labourers can pour it in like water.

      I don’t think drinking is intelligence related (not that I’m suggesting blue collar workers aren’t smart), I think it’s cultural. Our culture just happens to have a rubbish attitude towards alcohol, amongst other things.

      Also, I’m Australian. And sorry but we’re in the top 5 for National Drinking Championships (if one exists. If it doesn’t we’ll start it!)

  • Wendy

    Meh….I was speaking short phrases by 9 months and didn’t attend a single party in high-school (didn’t start drinking until after I graduated) and I’m probably the most introverted person I know. I think they are drawing conclusions where there isn’t any actual linkage/insight.