Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 2694–2702 | Cite as

Acquiring a Taste: Alcohol Experiences of German Elementary School Children

  • Eva Muenster
  • Heiko Rueger
  • Daniel Spahn
  • Elke Ochsmann
  • Giulio Napolitano
  • Ulrike Zier
Original Paper


Few data are available on alcohol experiences among elementary school children, although early onset and trying of alcohol use is known to be a risk factor for adolescent alcohol abuse. Until now, research leaves open the question on which factors encourage early trying behavior. In a cross-sectional study design, a written survey was conducted in 49 randomly selected elementary schools in Germany. The survey was carried out among 3rd and 4th graders with a median age of 9 years during class time in the school year 2010/2011. 1806 questionnaires were included in the study. The risk behavior of having tried alcohol was analyzed. A total of 37.7% (n = 681) of all children reported to have already tried alcohol. While grade and age had no significant influence in the final multivariate model, the gender effect stayed relevant (Male: aOR 1.2, 95%-CI 1.0–1.5), as did the question of whether the child liked going to school (No: aOR 1.4, 95%-CI 1.1–1.7), a lack of parental monitoring (aOR 1.5, 95%-CI 1.1–2.1), consistent parenting (Sometimes/never: aOR 1.5, 95%-CI 1.1–1.9), a regularly provided break-time snack (No: aOR 2.2, 95%-CI 1.3–3.8), as well as parents’ drinking (Yes: aOR 2.0, 95%-CI 1.6–2.6) and drinking among peers (Yes: aOR 8.5, 95%-CI 6.2–11.6). Our study shows that alcohol experiences can be highly prevalent among 3rd and 4th grade elementary school children in Germany. Our findings suggest that especially those variables which may be controlled by the parents are strongly associated with children’s alcohol experiences suggesting a starting point for preventative intervention measures. The results also indicate the need for innovative gender-sensitive approaches in the living environment of elementary school children.


Alcohol trying behavior Early onset Parental monitoring Gender approach 



This project was funded by the priority program “primary prevention” of the German Cancer Aid.

Author Contributions

E.M. conceptualized the study, developed the study protocol, was responsible for the analysis and wrote the initial draft of the paper. H.R. collaborated in the analyzing process data analysis and writing the paper. D.S. was conducting the analysis. E.O. collaborated the analyzing process and in writing the paper. G.N. collaborated in analyzing the data and writing the paper. U.Z. assisted in conceptualization of the study, developing the study protocol and writing the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Andrews, J. A., Tildesley, E., Hops, H., Duncan, S. C., & Severson, H. H. (2003). Elementary school age children’s future intentions and use of substances. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 32(4), 556–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Buchmann, A. F., Schmid, B., Blomeyer, D., Becker, K., Treutlein, J., & Zimmermann, U. S., et al. (2009). Impact of age at first drink on vulnerability to alcohol-related problems: testing the marker hypothesis in a prospective study of young adults. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43(15), 1205–1212.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bühler, A., & Kröger, C. (2006). Expertise zur Prävention des Substanzmissbrauchs (Forschung und Praxis der Gesundheitsförderung Band 29).
  4. Chorlian, D. B., Rangaswamy, M., Manz, N., Wang, J. C., Dick, D., & Almasy, L., et al. (2013). Genetic and neurophysiological correlates of the age of onset of alcohol use disorders in adolescents and young adults. Behavior Genetics, 43(5), 386–401.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Chou, S. P., & Pickering, R. P. (1992). Early onset of drinking as a risk factor for lifetime alcohol-related problems. British Journal of Addiction, 87(8), 1199–1204.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, D. A., Richardson, J., & LaBree, L. (1994). Parenting behaviors and the onset of smoking and alcohol use: A longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 94(3), 368–375.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Currie, C., Hurrelmann, K., Setterbulte, W., Smith, R., & Todd, J. (2000). Health and Health Behaviour among Young People: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children: a WHO Cross-National Study (HBSC). International Report (Health Policy for Children and Adolescents (HEPCA) Series No. 1),
  8. Dawson, D. A., Goldstein, R. B., Chou, S. P., Ruan, W. J., & Grant, B. F. (2008). Age at first drink and the first incidence of adult-onset DSM-IV alcohol use disorders. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(12), 2149–2160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DeWit, D. J., Adlaf, E. M., Offord, D. R., & Ogborne, A. C. (2000). Age at first alcohol use: a risk factor for the development of alcohol disorders. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(5), 745–750.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Donovan, J. E. (2007). Really underage drinkers: The epidemiology of children’s alcohol use in the United States. Prevention Science, 8(3), 192–205.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Donovan, J. E., & Molina, B. S. G. (2008). Children’s Introduction to alcohol use. sips and tastes. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(1), 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donovan, J. E., & Molina, B. S. G. (2011). Childhood risk factors for early-onset drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72(5), 741–751.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Drinkaware (2017). Official Guidance on Alcohol and Young People.
  14. Ellickson, P. L., Tucker, J. S., & Klein, D. J. (2003). Ten-year prospective study of public health problems associated with early drinking. Pediatrics, 111(5), 949–955.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Ellickson, S. L., Tucker, J. S., Klein, D. J., & McGuigan, K. A. (2001). Prospective risk factors for alcohol misuse in late adolescence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(6), 773–782.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fossey, E. (1993). Young children and alcohol: a theory of attitude development. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 28(4), 485–498.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gallimberti, L., Buja, A., Chindamo, S., Lion, C., Terraneo, A., & Marini, E., et al. (2015). Prevalence of substance use and abuse in late childhood and early adolescence. What are the implications? Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 862–867.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Government Digital Service (2016). Alcohol and young people.
  19. Gruber, E., DiClemente, R. J., Anderson, M. M., & Lodico, M. (1996). Early drinking onset and its association with alcohol use and problem behavior in late adolescence. Preventive Medicine, 25(3), 293–300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Guttmannova, K., Hill, K. G., Bailey, J. A., Lee, J. O., Hartigan, L. A., Hawkins, J. D., & Catalano, R. F. (2012). Examining explanatory mechanisms of the effects of early alcohol use on young adult alcohol dependence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73(3), 379–390.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Hawkins, D. J., Graham, J. W., Maguin, E., Abbott, R., Hill, K. G., & Catalano, R. F. (1997). Exploring the effects of age of alcohol use initiation and psychosocial risk factors on subsequent alcohol misuse. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 58(3), 280–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hearst, M. O., Fulkerson, J. A., Maldonado-Molina, M. M., Perry, C. L., & Komro, K. A. (2007). Who needs liquor stores when parents will do? The importance of social sources of alcohol among young urban teens. Preventive Medicine, 44(6), 471–476.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt. (2011). Die Bevoelkerung der hessischen Gemeinden am 31. Dezember 2010. Wiesbaden: Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt.Google Scholar
  24. Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt. (2014a). Sozialversicherungspflichtig beschäftigte Arbeitnehmer in Hessen am 30. September 2013. Wiesbaden: Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt.Google Scholar
  25. Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt. (2014b). Das verfuuegbare Einkommen der privaten Haushalte in Hessen von 1991 bis 2012 nach kreisfreien Staedten und Landkreisen. Wiesbaden: Hessisches Statistisches Landesamt.Google Scholar
  26. Hingson, R. W., Edwards, E. M., Heeren, T., & Rosenbloom, D. (2009). Age of drinking onset and injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and physical fights after drinking and when not drinking. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 33(5), 783–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hingson, R. W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M. R. (2006). Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: Age at onset, duration and severity. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 160(7), 739–746.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson, C., Ennett, S. T., Dickinson, D. M., & Bowling, J. M. (2012). Letting children sip: Understanding why parents allow alcohol use by elementary school-aged children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 166(11), 1053–1057.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Jackson, C., Henriksen, L., Dickinson, D., & Levine, D. W. (1997). The early use of alcohol and tobacco: Its relation to children’s competence and parents’ behavior. American Journal of Public Health, 87(3), 359–364.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Johnson, C. C., Greenlund, K. J., Webber, L. S., & Berenson, G. S. (1997). Alcohol first use and attitudes among young children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 6(3), 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kaplow, J. B., Curran, P. J., & Dodge, K. A. (2002). Child, parent, and peer predictors of early-onset substance use: a multisite longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30(3), 199–216.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Kuntsche, E., Rossow, I., Engels, R., & Kuntsche, S. (2015). Is “age at first drink” a useful concept in alcohol research and prevention? We doubt that. Addiction, 111(6), 957–965.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Lampert, T., & Thamm, M. (2007). Tabak-, Alkohol- und Drogenkonsum von Jugendlichen in Deutschland. Ergebnisse des Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitssurveys (KiGGS). Bundesgesundheitsblatt, 50(5), 600–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Latendresse, S. J., Rose, R. J., Viken, R. J., Pulkkinen, L., Kaprio, J., & Dick, D. M. (2008). Parenting mechanisms in links between parents’ and adolescents’ alcohol use behaviors. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(2), 322–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Macleod, J., Hickman, M., Bowen, E., Alati, R., Tilling, K., & Smith, G. D. (2008). Parental drug use, early adversities, later childhood problems and children’s use of tobacco and alcohol at age 10: birth cohort study. Addiction, 103(10), 1731–1743.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore, G. F., Rothwell, H., & Segrott, J. (2010). An exploratory study of the relationship between parental attitudes and behaviour and young people’s consumption of alcohol. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 5, 6–20.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. OECD. (2015). Health at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Scholar
  38. Rossow, I., Keating, P., Felix, L., & McCambridge, J. (2016). Does parental drinking influence children’s drinking? A systematic review of prospective cohort studies. Addiction, 111(2), 204–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Rossow, I., & Kuntsche, E. (2013). Early onset of drinking and risk of heavy drinking in young adulthood-A 13-year prospective study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(Suppl 1), E297–E304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simonson, J. (2009). Klassenzimmerbefragungen von Kindern und Jugendlichen: Praktikabilität, Potentiale und Probleme einer Methode. In M. Weichbold, J. Bacher, C. Wolf (Eds.), Umfrageforschung (pp. 63–84). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Statistisches Aemter des Bundes und derLaender (2016). Disposable income 1991 to 2014. (Revision 2014). Scholar
  42. Statistisches Bundesamt (2016). Arbeitslose, Arbeitslosenquoten, Gemeldete Arbeitsstellen: Bundesländer, Jahre (GENESIS-Online Table 13211-0005).
  43. Warner, L. A., White, H. R., & Johnson, V. (2007). Alcohol initiation experiences and family history of alcoholism as predictors of problem-drinking trajectories. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68(1), 56–65.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Weiss, J. W., Liu, I., Sussman, S., Palmer, P., Unger, J. B., & Cen, S., et al. (2006). After-school supervision, psychosocial impact, and adolescent smoking and alcohol use in China. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 15(4), 442–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. White, H. R., Johnson, V., & Buyske, S. (2000). Parenteral modeling and parenting behavior effects on offspring alcohol and cigarette use: A growth curve analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse, 12(3), 287–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Wiedig, M., & Weber, H. (2002). Das Alkoholkonzept von Grundschulkindern. Zeitschrift für Gesundheitspsychologie, 10(3), 108–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zucker, R. A., Donovan, J. E., Masten, A. S., & Mattson, M. E. (2008). Early developmental processes and the continuity of risk for underage drinking and problem drinking. Pediatrics, 121(4), 252–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Muenster
    • 1
    • 2
  • Heiko Rueger
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel Spahn
    • 2
  • Elke Ochsmann
    • 4
  • Giulio Napolitano
    • 5
  • Ulrike Zier
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of General Practice and Family MedicineMedical Faculty of the University of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Institute of OccupationalSocial and Environmental Medicine, University Medical Center of the University of MainzMainzGermany
  3. 3.German Federal Institute for Population ResearchWiesbadenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Occupational Medicine, University of LuebeckLuebeckGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Medical Biometry, Informatics and EpidemiologyUniversity Medical Center BonnBonnGermany

Personalised recommendations