Demos, the think-tank, has tracked the drinking patterns of 18,000 people over three decades. The study found that at the age of 16, teenagers were mainly influenced by their peers in how much they drank, while their parents’ attitudes towards alcohol appeared to show little impact. Yet by the age of 34, the likelihood that they were “binge drinking” rose in line with how much they had thought, as a child, that their mother drank
As teenagers, the group were asked to assess whether their parents drank never, sometimes, often or always. Researchers found that with each step that mothers rose on the four-point scale, the chance that their adult children were drinking above the Government recommended limits rose 1.3 times. Yet the study found no relationship between the drinking habits of fathers, and the later behaviour of their adult children.
Researchers said that among parents who drank, it seemed fathers were likely to do more of their drinking outside the home, often in pubs, while drinking by mothers was more likely to be witnessed by children, and hold more influence. Jonathan Birdwell, head of Demos’ Citizens Programme said: “What we found really interesting was this delayed effect; the impact of what teenagers perceived about their mothers’ drinking habits doesn’t show an impact at the time, but decades later.” He said the “cultural acceptability” of male drinking might also reduce the influence of fathers on their children’s attitudes to alcohol.
The study assessed the alcohol intake of 18,000 people born in 1970, first at the age of 16, when they were also asked to categorise their parents’ drinking habits, and again at 34. The study found that teenagers were least likely to binge drink if they categorised their upbringing as one in which strict discipline was combined with high levels of parental warmth. It also suggested those whose parents separate or divorce before the age of five were more likely to become binge drinkers.
Do you think the research rings true – are children more influenced by a mother’s drinking over a father’s?