If 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.