Delaying the onset of alcohol

Aug 25, 2021

Delaying the onset of alcohol: Taranaki Alcohol Harm Reduction Group project update

Nigel Latta was in New Plymouth recently to talk to parents about the importance of delaying the age at which children should start drinking alcohol.  Arranged by the Taranaki Alcohol Harm Reduction Group (TAHRG), these events focused on the caregivers and whānau of intermediate age children as part of a wider project by TAHRG which is aimed at delaying the initiation of alcohol.

So what came out of holding these events?   Evaluation data received from parents showed that before the presentations:

  • the median age that they would permit their child to drink was 16.5 years.
  •  There was a strong belief by parents that you could teach children to drink responsibily by supervising their drinking at home and giving them small sips of alcohol from a young age

Findings from the post-presentation evaluation showed that:

  • the median age for permitting drinking had changed to 18, with a key message of no alcohol (not even sips) before 15 years of age. 
  • Just over half (54%) of the parents stated that they had changed their minds on when to permit their children to drink alcohol as a result of the presentation. 
  • New information gained included the impact of alcohol on brain development, and that the younger they start the more likely they are to develop a drinking problem later in life. 
  • For those parents who did not change their minds as a result of the presentation, most stated they ‘already know that it was better to delay’, or that they agreed with the information in the presentation and that it both reinforced their initial thinking and gave them strategies on how to delay onset of drinking. 


Focus groups with parents of intermediate aged children were held following the Nigel Latta presentations.  Some of the main findings from the first round of focus groups included:

  • Making changes at home, including reducing their own drinking, moving alcohol out of sight, not giving children sips of alcohol and setting new rules and boundaries with their children about alcohol
  • Parents were concerned about the wider environment that they and their children lived in that normalized drinking and how that would impact on their ability to delay onset of drinking for their young people.  This included how alcohol is marketed to young people and alcohol sponsorship in sport
  • Nigel Latta presentations had given them new information and had changed their attitudes and conversations around alcohol with their children and other parents
  • General parenting issues were raised regarding trust, knowing your child and what stage they are at with alcohol (some not interested, others are) and wanting to foster independence but also have a balance
  • Generally, parents were having a number of different conversations about alcohol with their children. 
  • Having parents ‘on the same page’ wanting to delay the on-set of drinking was a key enabler of having conversations about alcohol with your children. 


Where to from here?

  • Another round of focus groups are planned for this term, of which the focus will be identifying strategies on how to get the message of delaying on-set of alcohol out there to a wider group of caregivers and whanau throughout Taranaki.
  • The Taranaki Alcohol Harm Reduction Group will then develop and pretest agreed strategies with a wide variety of caregivers and whanau

Want to know more?  Interested in being involved?  Contact Alisha Stone, project coordinator [email protected]




Intro Byline: Taranaki Alcohol Harm Reduction Group Project Update