Parents should lead by example on drinking


A new  Ipsos MORI survey found that children who see their parents drunk are twice as likely to regularly get drunk themselves, and the more time teenagers spend with friends, the more likely they are to drink alcohol.

In a survey of 5,700 children aged 13 to 16, carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, researchers found one in five claimed to have been drunk by the time they were 14. By the age of 16, half of those questioned said they had been drunk.

The study also shows that the habits of parents are particularly powerful in influencing under-age drinking, with the chances of a teenager getting drunk repeatedly twice as great if they have seen their parents under the influence of alcohol.

According to the study: Parents strongly influence young people’s alcohol-related behaviour through supervision and monitoring,as well as playing a role in modelling this behaviour. Being with a parent suggests an element of supervision and monitoring, which can reduce the likelihood of drinking, frequent drinking and higher levels of alcohol consumption or drunkenness. Witnessing family behaviour with alcohol can have a negative influence when drinking behaviour is normalised in the home.

Spending every evening with friends multiplies the odds of excessive drinking more than four times, according to the study. There is also  is conflicting evidence on how to introduce young people to alcohol, but those introduced to alcohol at a very young age had greater odds of being a regular drinker and of having been drunk multiple times.

Pamela Bremner from Ipsos MORI, said: "The behaviour of friends and family is the most common influential factor in determining how likely and how often a young person will drink alcohol."

Chris Sorek, Chief Executive of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, said: “This study reinforces Drinkaware’s research which shows that parents are vital in shaping children’s attitudes to alcohol and they have more influence than they think.    In the same way that parents teach their children to cross the road safely, they also have a role in teaching them how to drink responsibly. 

“Parents might feel their teenager doesn’t listen to a word they say, but this report should give them the confidence to strike up a conversation about alcohol and the risks it can carry for young people.  Drinkaware research shows 48% of 15 to 17 year olds would go to their parents for advice about the effects of drinking – the top choice – while only 8% would go to a friend.*

The report shows the majority of children have their first drink by age 13, so the earlier parents broach the subject of alcohol the better.  As children grow up, the influence of their peers gets stronger, so it’s important for parents to give their children the facts before their friends do. 

Mr Sorek said: “Parent’s own drinking habits have a big impact on what their children see as acceptable behaviour, so when it comes to drinking, it really is a case of leading by example.  Simple actions like sticking to the daily unit guidelines, explaining how alcohol affects children differently to adults and not providing children with alcohol go a long way in helping to ensure children grow up with a responsible attitude to drinking."

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