updated 2/17/2011 1:50:05 PM ET 2011-02-17T18:50:05

Nearly half of kids between the ages of 12 and 14 who drink get their alcohol for free from their family or at home, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

An estimated 709,000 kids in the United States of these ages, which is about 5.9 percent, drank alcohol in the past month, according to the report, which is based on data from 2006 through 2009 collected as part of the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health.

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And 93.4 percent of these teens said they got their alcohol for free the last time they drank, according to the report. In addition to the 44.8 percent of kids who said their free alcohol was from a family member or in their home, 19.6 percent got their free alcohol from another underage person, 13.5 percent got it from an unrelated adult, and 6.8 percent got it from someone else's home.

About 111,000 kids said they got it from a parent or guardian.

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The study shows that family members can play an important role in reducing kids' access to alcohol, which could prevent underage drinking and the early onset of the behavioral health problems that may come with it, the researchers said.

"People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are six times more likely than those who start at age 21 and older to develop alcohol problems," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde.

"Parents and other adults need to be aware that providing alcohol to children can expose them to an increased risk for alcohol abuse and set them on a path with increased potential for addiction," Hyde said.

The estimates are based on the responses of more than 44,000 adolescents, the administration said.

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