Parenting style ‘influences binge drinking’

Parenting style is one of the most important and statistically reliable influences on whether a child will drink responsibly in adolescence and adulthood, according to think tank Demos.

Parenting style is one of the most important and statistically reliable influences on whether a child will drink responsibly in adolescence and adulthood, according to think tank Demos.

Demos’ study of over 15,000 children found that ‘tough love’ parenting, combining consistent warmth and discipline, was the most effective parenting style to prevent unhealthy relationships with alcohol right into the mid-thirties age range.

The report Under the Influence found that:

– "Bad parenting" at age 10 makes the child twice as likely to drink excessively at age 34

– "Bad parenting" at age 16 makes the child over eight times more likely to drink excessively at that age

– "Bad parenting" at age 16 makes the child over twice as likely to drink excessively at age 34

The report also found that high levels of parental warmth and attachment at an early age and strict discipline at the age of 16 are the best parenting styles to reduce the likelihood that a child will binge-drink in adolescence and adulthood.

While ‘tough love’ was the best parenting style to ensure against children becoming binge drinkers, less effective parenting styles were ‘authoritarian’, ‘laissez faire’ and ‘disengaged’, it said.

Demos says the lead role in how to deal with an entrenched binge culture needs to be taken by parents and government must support parents to do this.  Without the active involvement of parents, policy to deal with binge-drinking will not have the reach or impact desired to combat the problem, it states.

It recommends parents should not take a relaxed attitude to under-age consumption; should discuss alcohol with their children within the context of setting firm boundaries; should avoid being drunk around their children; and should actively ensure that their children develop sensible and responsible expectations of alcohol consumption. The report also stresses the importance of such a warm and loving relationship from age 0-5 for developing a number of extremely important life skills, including responsible drinking in later life. It adds that easy access to alcohol in the home is one of the key predictors of alcohol consumption and drunkenness among teenagers so it recommends ensuring that alcohol in the home is monitored and teenagers do not have access to it.

The report recommends that Government enforce under-age drinking laws, promote local partnerships between police, local authorities and retailers to target trouble areas and invest in alcohol-related school programmes that involve parents.

Demos also recommends cutting the summer holiday and spreading it throughout the year as well as providing activities for at-risk children.

Jamie Bartlett, lead author of the report, said: “The enduring impact of parenting on a child’s future relationship with alcohol cannot be ignored.  This is good for parents: those difficult moments of enforcing tough rules really do make a difference, even if it doesn’t always feel like that at the time.

“While levels of binge drinking have fallen for five years running, there is a minority of extreme, publically visible, drinkers. No matter how high minimum pricing on alcohol is, there will be a hardcore of binge drinkers who will find a way to pay for it.

“For children whose parents may be disengaged, very practical measures like spreading the school summer holiday throughout the year and providing activities for children in the school breaks, will go some way to preventing boredom and avoiding risky behaviour like under-age drinking.”





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