How our attitude to drinking affects our children

How our attitude to drinking affects our children

Published by Grace Mcgachy
11:43am 12th June 2019. (Updated at 11:44am 12th June 2019)

A relaxed attitude towards alcohol might actually encourage our children to get drunk.

That's according to research from the University of East Anglia and Cambridge University.

Children are more likely to start drinking alcohol, drink more frequently and get drunk if their parents have a lenient attitude towards drinking.


Alcohol use is one of the biggest risk factors for social and physical harm and has been linked to the development of diseases including cancer, diabetes, and liver and heart disease.

Even though the legal age to buy alcohol is 18 years and above in most countries, the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs found that almost half of 15-16-year-old students had consumed alcohol and 8 per cent had been drunk by the age of 13.



Children as young as two years old become aware of alcohol and are able to distinguish alcoholic from non-alcoholic drinks and from four on, they start to understand that alcohol is usually restricted to adults and consumed in specific situations.

New research published today in the journal Addiction, finds that children whose parents had less restrictive attitudes towards their child's alcohol use were more likely to start drinking alcohol than their peers.

They also drank - and got drunk - more frequently.

young teens drinking generic

The findings come from a review of published articles examining parent-child pairs and the relationship between parental attitudes and their child's alcohol use.

The researchers pooled information from the 29 most relevant articles and analysed all the relevant information, which included data from almost 16,500 children and more than 15,000 parents in the US and Europe.

Mariliis Tael-Oeren, PhD student and lead author for the study, said:



"Our study suggests that when parents have a lenient attitude towards their children drinking alcohol, this can lead to their child drinking more frequently - and drinking too much.

Although the data was based on children and their parents in the US and Europe, we expect that our findings will also apply here in the UK."


Research also found a mismatch between what children think is their parent's attitude towards them drinking and what the parent's attitude actually is.

Children were no more likely to start drinking alcohol if they perceived their parent to have a lenient attitude, but once they had started drinking, they were more likely to drink often.

empty wine bottles


"This mismatch doesn't mean that children perceive parental attitudes completely differently from their parents.

Instead, it could be that their perceptions are skewed towards thinking their parents have more lenient attitudes.

This could be because their parents haven't expressed their attitudes in a way that the children really understand.

Alcohol use can be problematic, particularly among young people. It's important that children understand the short and long term consequences of drinking.

If parents don't want their children to drink, then our study suggests they need to be clear about the message they give out."

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