Report highlights risky drinking by parents

Just under a quarter of parents drink as much alcohol as before their baby’s birth and 17% have increased their consumption, according to a study on families and alcohol.

The Over the Limit: The Truth about Families and Alcohol report by charity 4Children warns of a silent epidemic of alcohol misuse by British families. The report warns that too many parents are oblivious to the negative effects that alcohol can have on their parenting.  It found, for instance, that 19% believe alcohol has a positive effect on their parenting ability and 62% think their drinking behaviour has no impact on their family at all.

The report shows 22% of children live with a parent who drinks hazardously, 6% of children (around 700,000 across the country) live with a dependent drinker, 62% of children who were subject to care proceedings were from families with parental alcohol misuse and more than a third of all domestic violence cases involve alcohol.

The report calls for a series of wide ranging reforms including a commitment from the alcohol industry to divert 1% of revenue to fund a new alcohol awareness campaign aimed at families.

The report shows: – 29% of mothers and 30% of their partners drink more than the recommended units per week.
– 5% of mothers increased their drinking during pregnancy and 8% continued to drink the same amount as before they became pregnant.
– Only 9% of parents recognised that there was a negative impact of drinking or drug use on their family life.  19% said that their drinking impacted ‘positively’ on their children.
– 9% of parents who drink on a weekly basis thought their families benefited financially.

Anne Longfield OBE, 4Children Chief Executive said: “This report demands that we think again about our relationship with alcohol for our families’ sake. The statistics speak for themselves with consumption of alcohol known to be a major factor in family crisis – from domestic abuse and family conflict to a breakdown in family relationships and the ability to parent.

“It is no use waiting for alcohol and drugs to take their grip on families and only intervene when a child protection case is called. We need to see a greater focus on families within wider strategies around addiction. Addiction and the subsequent breakdown in many families is the end of a story that often starts with so called ‘normal’ use. With proper warnings to parents and better awareness of the impact that alcohol can have, we can avoid the crises that addiction can cause.”

4Children is calling for a major public information campaign, funded by the alcohol industry, to provide better information and more help to families via health visitors and midwives via schools and children’s centres. It demands the protection of existing funding for alcohol and drugs services that may be a casualty of the transition from PCTs to Clinical Commissioning Groups. The charity is also calling on the UK alcohol industry, estimated to be worth £6 billion annually, to invest 1% of its value into help for families to prevent alcohol dependency and family crises.

Longfield added: “Families need help to make the right decisions around drinking and substance use. In some cases, a warning label may provide the nudge that’s needed. For many, a more far reaching intervention will be in order.

“We need to remain focused on maintaining and extending services to encompass prevention strategies and that should include better labelling and a concerted effort to reach parents to be and very new parents so that they are aware of the dangers of alcohol. The alcohol industry is in a position to be able to take on some of the stewardship and should be encouraged to do so as part of its corporate social responsibility strategies.”

Picture credit: Boykung and

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