What do preschoolers know about alcohol? Evidence from the electronic Appropriate Beverage Task (eABT)

preschoolersEmmanuel Kuntsche, Lydie Le Mével, Robert A. Zuckerd



Development of an age-appropriate technique to assess children’s alcohol knowledge
Using touch-screen computers was shown to be well-suited to studying preschoolers.
Children as young as three tend to have beverage-specific knowledge.
From age four on, children start to know about the alcoholic content of beverages.
From age six on, children start to know about adult drinking norms.


While much is known about alcohol use in adolescence and beyond, factors leading to such behaviors are rooted much earlier in life. To investigate what preschoolers (aged three to six) know about alcohol and adult alcohol use, we developed an electronic version (eABT) of the Appropriate Beverage Task (Zucker, Kincaid, Fitzgerald, & Bingham, 1995).

Drawings of adults and children in 11 everyday scenarios and 12 photos of different beverages were shown on a touchscreen computer to 301 three- to six-year-olds (49.5% girls) from 37 preschools and seven nurseries in French-speaking Switzerland. First, the children assigned a beverage to each individual in each drawing, and then were asked if the beverage contained alcohol and if they knew its name.

The results revealed that 68.1% correctly classified beer, white wine, red wine and champagne as alcoholic beverages, while 46.4% knew the beverages by name, compared to 83.2% and 73.1% for non-alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages were assigned more often to men (42.2%) than to women (28.7%) or to children (12.7%), and more often to adults at a party (39.4%) than to those playing outdoors (34.7%).

In conclusion, children as young as three often have some beverage-specific knowledge. From the age of four onwards, they begin to know that alcoholic beverages contain alcohol. Children aged six and over tend to have some knowledge of adult drinking norms, i.e. who is drinking and in what circumstances.

Addictive Behaviors

Volume 61, October 2016, Pages 47-52

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