Parents' risky drinking linked to kids alcohol use

Parents' risky drinking linked to kids alcohol use

Media Release — 20 June 2016

Levels of risky drinking among Australian parents is a strong factor influencing their teenage children to try alcohol, according to a new study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said the study – to be presented at next month’s Australian Institute of Family Studies conference – confirmed a clear link between the drinking behaviour of parents and their teenage sons and daughters experimenting with alcohol, some from as young as 13 years old.

Ms Hollonds said the study defined ‘risky drinking’ as when parents had five or more drinks on any occasion, at least two or three times a month.

“The study found that when mothers were drinking at what is defined as a risky level, a quarter of their children had tried alcohol themselves, compared to 16 per cent of other children whose parents did not drink heavily,” Ms Hollonds said.

“Fathers involved in risky drinking behaviour had a similar influence, with 18 per cent of their children having tried alcohol.

“On average, boys had their first drink by the age of 13 and girls by around 13 and-a-half.”

Manager of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, Associate Professor Ben Edwards said the study involved 3,300 children and families from all states and territories.

“The study examined how the drinking patterns of parents affected teenagers, particularly in families where parents were drinking at risky levels,” he said.

“We found that parents who were drinking more and modelling that behaviour to their teenagers perhaps not surprisingly, had offspring who were more likely to have tried alcohol themselves.

“However, this doesn’t mean that young teenagers are necessarily drinking to excess, just that they are sampling alcohol at what is a relatively young age.

“This is a concern given that the current medical advice suggests that it is safest for under 18s to avoid alcohol altogether.”

Associate Professor Edwards said that friends also had a strong influence on the likelihood of young teens trying alcohol.

“If teenagers had no friends who’d tried alcohol, only 5 per cent of them had consumed alcohol. However, for teenagers who had at least one friend who drank, up to 39 per cent said they had tried alcohol too during the previous 12 months,” he said.

“Teenagers in families with lower levels of parental monitoring were also more likely to have experimented with alcohol.

“That’s why it’s important that parents continue to try and monitor where their children are, what they’re doing and who they’re with. This helps set boundaries and clear expectations around what is acceptable behaviour for young people who should be discouraged from drinking at this early stage in their lives.”

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