Parents’ play key role in children’s drinking habits

A third of adolescents and half of parents report “hazardous drinking”, according to a University College Cork study.

Documenting a strong link between the liberal attitudes of parents to alcohol and their children’s drinking, the research urges health-action plans to target both the behaviour of adolescents and the attitudes of their parents.

The study noted the different influences of fathers and mothers in their children’s behaviour and attitudes to alcohol.

The adolescents of fathers who were drinking hazardously were three times as likely to report hazardous consumption themselves.

Hazardous drinking was defined by the World Health Organisation as “a pattern of alcohol consumption that increases the risk of harmful consequences for the user or others”.

The study, published in BMC Public Health, was based on 366 students, from fifth and sixth year, and 542 parents, in the Mallow and Kanturk areas of Co Cork.

Researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Heath carried out the work, in 2014 and 2015.

The result was that 34% of adolescents, and 47% of parents, surveyed reported hazardous drinking.

The majority of adolescents — some 68% — were under the legal age.

The median age of pupils was 17 and 55% were female.

90% of parents disagreed with allowing their adolescent to get drunk — but 20% of parents said they would not be worried if their child consumed four pints of alcohol once a month.

The report said that “a large majority of parents” (43%) agreed with permitting their adolescent to drink on special occasions.

The survey found that if an adolescent was a hazardous drinker, their father was more likely to agree with the proposition that it’s ‘okay for the adolescent to get drunk sometimes’ (15% v 3%).

Similarly, fathers of hazardous-drinking adolescents were more likely to agree that ‘getting drunk is part of having fun as an adolescent’ (13% v4%).

The mother of an adolescent reporting hazardous drinking was more likely to agree that ‘it’s okay for their adolescent to get drunk sometimes’ (6% v 1%).

The survey, however, found no observed effect on adolescents from their mothers’ drinking.

But it said mothers had an influence on their children’s attitude towards alcohol.

“Introducing alcohol at home, on special occasions, may be causing increased levels of consumption among adolescents,” it said.

“A more authoritative parenting style may have a protective effect.”

The authors said that, as 68% of adolescents were under the legal age, there was an “urgent need” to understand how they are accessing alcohol and improving law enforcement.

Concluding, it highlighted the “influencing nature” of fathers and mothers on adolescent behaviour and attitudes to drinking.

“In future, we recommend that any action plan to tackle adolescent-drinking behaviours should also be aimed at tackling parents’ attitudes towards, and consumption of, alcohol.”

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