Middle-class parents risk turning their children into alcoholics by offering them drinks at home, according to government research which showed that affluent teenagers were twice as likely as the poorest to be regular drinkers.
Young people from middle-class backgrounds are also more likely to have tried alcohol and to continue with the habit once they have started, said the survey of 120,000 15-year-olds.
Charities warned that many parents still mistakenly believe that introducing their children to alcohol at home, even a glass of wine with a family dinner, might protect them from becoming problem drinkers. Despite being legal, it is likely to have the opposite effect, campaigners said.
The study, the first of its kind published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, a body funded by the Department of Health, found that 70 per cent of boys and girls aged 15 in the least deprived areas had tried alcohol, compared to 50 per cent in the most deprived.