Under the influence: what we know about binge drinking: interim report

Document type
Bartlett, Jamie; Grist, Matt
Date of publication
1 March 2011
Substance Misuse, Children and Young People
Social welfare
Material type

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Even though binge-drinking in Britain has been falling for five years increasingly public and extreme drinking behaviour among some young adults has fuelled a moral panic. There is considerable disagreement about why some young adults consume excessive amounts of alcohol, how serious a problem this is, and what should be done about it. Proposed solutions tend to focus on the supply-side; very few address the root causes of harmful drinking. Under the Influence investigates how far parenting style affects those children’s drinking behaviour in later life. It analyses data of several thousand children from two separate data sets and compares how their parents raised them against the child’s drinking habits in adolescence and adulthood. It finds that parenting style is one of the most statistically reliable influences on a child’s drinking patterns in adolescence and adulthood. Tough love – parenting which combines affection with firm boundaries – results in children being less likely to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in later life. The pamphlet makes some basic suggestions that can inform parents when they make decisions about alcohol. It also recommends that the Government ensure parents are central to the forthcoming alcohol strategy, and makes it easier for parents to provide the consistent warmth and discipline that averts harmful drinking. Overall, the findings presented are positive for parents: the setting and enforcing of clear boundaries, mixed with high levels of attachment, can and do make a major difference.

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