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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2000 Aug;24(8):1167-71.

Children's hedonic response to the smell of alcohol: effects of parental drinking habits.

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Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



Previous research in our laboratory revealed that during the first year of life, infants who had more exposure to alcohol, as inferred from questionnaires about parental alcoholism and alcohol intake, mouthed an ethanol-scented toy more compared with less exposed infants. The present study focused on older children (3.8-6.0 years) to determine whether their hedonic response to the odor of alcohol was related to the drinking habits of their parents.


Age-appropriate, game-like tasks that were fun for children and minimized the impact of language development were used to examine their preferences and identification of a variety of odors, one of which was beer.


The children's preference for the odor of beer varied as a function of the escape drinking of their mothers alone or both parents. That is, children who lived in a household in which one or both parents drank alcohol to escape were significantly more likely to dislike the odor bottle that contained alcohol when compared with children whose parents did not drink to escape. This difference between the groups was odor specific. Additional analyses also revealed that the fathers of children who rejected the beer odor reported drinking significantly more than the fathers of those who liked the odor.


These findings suggest that some early learning about alcohol is based on sensory experiences and anchor it to children's experiences at home and the emotional context in which their parents experience alcohol.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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