Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kids Connect Alcohol Odors with Mom’s Emotions

I've always believed that children, even in utero, pick up on their mother's this is an interesting finding. From Newswise, the journalists'-only site:

Newswise — How children respond to the smell of alcoholic beverages is related to their mothers’ reasons for drinking, according to a new study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. When asked to smell both the odor of beer and an unpleasant odor and then indicate which they liked better, children of mothers classified as ‘Escape drinkers’ were more likely than children of Non-escape drinkers to select the unpleasant odor over beer.

Children’s responses to odors provide us with a window into their emotions,” says study lead author Julie Mennella, PhD, a Monell biopsychologist. “When given a choice between beer and pyridine – the smell of rotten eggs – children of mothers who drink to relieve tension and worry choose pyridine as smelling better. That’s pretty powerful.”

In the study, which appears in the journal Alcohol, 145 children between the ages of 5 and 8 years were presented with seven pairs of odors. One of the odors was always beer; the others were bubblegum, chocolate, cola, coffee, green tea, pyridine, and cigarette smoke. For each pair, the children indicated which odor they liked better.

Mennella notes that because odor information travels directly to areas of the brain that deal with non-verbal aspects of emotion and memory, studying children’s responses to odors provides insights into their emotional worlds.

“Like adults, children are not very good at identifying odors,” she says. “However, they are good at telling us whether they like an odor or not. This study shows that whether they like the odor of beer depends not just on how often their mother drinks, but on why she drinks.”

The children’s mothers completed a questionnaire about their drinking habits, including their reasons for drinking; 35 were classified as ‘Escape drinkers,’ based on their indicating having at least two escape reasons for drinking. These included: helps to relax, need when tense and nervous, helps to cheer up when in a bad mood, helps to forget worries, and helps to forget everything.

Mothers’ reasons for drinking influenced how children responded to the odor of beer. Relative to children of Non-escape drinkers, children whose mothers were Escape drinkers showed greater dislike for the odor of beer, even when beer was compared with unpleasant odors such as pyridine and cigarette smoke.


Bunny said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this study or if I believe it be true. I guess it's possible that children connect certain emotions to certain scents. We connect emotions to many things like scents, sounds, and words, and children are not exempt. Interesting... and sad for those children.

Brian said...

Children’s responses to odors provide us with a window into their emotions,” says study lead author Julie Mennella, PhD, a Monell biopsychologist. Children who dislike the odor of alcohol and experience it in a negative emotional context are more or less likely as adolescents or adults to seek out alcohol when stressed.
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Anonymous said...

This scientific study shows that alcohol drinking among mothers, is not a good sign because their children is affected by their behavior. We know for a fact that alcohol can cause addiction, and it doesn't choose its victims. The mother should be a good model to her son so that the kid is going to become a good person someday.

Anonymous said...


Grace said...

My mother was an alcoholic and, to this day, I feel a perceptible twinge of...something (unpleasant) when I smell/taste wine or beer. It's enough for me to avoid drinking all together, and I even get a little concerned when others around me are. Makes sense! They always say that odors have a very strong link to memories and emotions.
Thanks for keeping this amazing blog.

GreenFertility said...

Wow, that is so interesting. THANK YOU for sharing!