Parenting style strongly affects drinking, Demos says

Teenager drinking Binge drinking is defined as drinking more than twice the daily recommended allowance in a sitting

Related Stories

Parenting style is one of the strongest influences on how a child drinks as a young adult, a study suggests.

Independent think tank Demos studied data based on about 15,000 children born in the UK in the last 40 years.

It found that a "tough love" style of parenting was the best way to ensure children drank more responsibly when they were aged between 16 and 34.

The research also suggests that being too authoritarian with children could be as ineffectual as being too casual.

Warm and affectionate

Researchers found that the best approach was for parents to be warm and affectionate until the age of 10 and then combine this with more discipline. Then at ages 15 to 16 there should be more supervision.

It found high levels of parental attachment when children were aged under five significantly reduced the chances of them drinking excessively later in life.

Demos's parenting types

  • Authoritarian: Set absolute standards, value obedience and structure over freedom and exploration
  • Tough love: Expect children to conform to rules that can be negotiated. Encourage autonomy in decision making
  • Laissez-faire: Emotionally engaged but tend to abrogate responsibility for setting rules. Few standards imposed
  • Disengaged: Uninvolved emotionally with their children. Do not structure activities or set boundaries

It studied data gained from questioning of parents on two broad areas - warmth and discipline.

When their children were young, parents were asked about how much time they spent with them and whether they ate meals together, among other questions.

Regarding discipline, they were asked whether they knew where their teenage children were in the evenings, how often household rules were broken, and other questions.

When the children reached adulthood, they were asked about alcohol consumption.

Report author Jamie Bartlett said that parenting which combined high levels of both warmth and discipline "results in the child overall in their lives achieving lots of positive things - well-being, responsibility, efficacy, and responsible alcohol consumption is one of them.

"This isn't just about alcohol, but it's one of those things that's affected by parenting styles."

Government action urged

Demos's study found bad parenting at 16 made children more than eight times more likely to drink excessively at that age and over twice as likely to binge drink when they were 34.

Its report says parents should discuss alcohol with their children and set firm boundaries on drinking, avoid being drunk around them and actively ensure they develop sensible expectations of consumption.

It says ensuring teenagers do not have easy access to alcohol at home and monitoring drinking in the home environment is another important element of a tough love approach.

Start Quote

Those difficult moments of enforcing tough rules really do make a difference, even if it doesn't always feel like that at the time.”

End Quote Jamie Bartlett Demos report author

The think tank recommends that parents take a lead role in dealing with "an entrenched binge drinking culture" in Britain with government support.

The government should enforce under-age drinking laws - in partnership with local authorities and retailers - so that alcohol boundaries are clear, it says.

Investment should also be made in alcohol-related school programmes involving parents, the report says.

Activities for at-risk children are also important during school holidays when there can be more opportunities to engage in binge drinking, Demos says.

Mr Bartlett said the impact of parenting on children's future drinking "cannot be ignored".

"This is good for parents: those difficult moments of enforcing tough rules really do make a difference, even if it doesn't always feel like that at the time."

Data used in Demos's study came from the 1970 British Cohort Study.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    as someone has quite rightly said, peer pressure is a greater influence on 13+ year olds [I can remember it well], than parents - 'good' or 'bad.'
    When our kids reach 11 we have to send them to a secondary school, often quite some distance from the home, they have to travel, often by bus, and become more independant - they mix with other parent's kids who may not have been brought up so lovingly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Despite the need for some to cast everyone in the same mould and deny the individual, you can't apply one method to all your children. One of my two children is more like my other half, a social drinker, the other one more like me, an occasional drinker. I can tell by my children's curiosity, or lack thereof and tendency to copy who is more "at risk", or which one reacts better to tough love.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    This does not surprise me at all. A conscious effort in employing parenting skills that encourage autonomy in the teenage years results in developing an intrinsic responsibility that will be far reaching. However, this comes out of strong attachments in childhood promoting not only positive emotional responses to life's experiences but also building healthy physical links in the brain early on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    In other news: Grass is green, water is wet. Good day. Is it opening time yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    lancskassie 92
    Would it be correct to draw the conclusion that you have low self esteem and that drink bolsters your confidence? This is nothing to be ashamed about but TRUE & PERFECT LOVE comes from faith in a Supreme Being or God if you prefer who has put us all on this earth for a purpose. However,we all have free will and can make good and bad choices and we need spiritual direction/guidance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    @83 Personal responsibility does lie with the individual sure, but they set their responsibility based on things they learn as they are raised. If I raise a child from an early age, tell them that drink is great, drugs are great, beat them and teach them to steal, how can they set their moral compass correctly? Parents have a personal responsibility too. This is not news to most people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    From my own experience, when we see a story or have a discussion like this people tend to look for one reason for the 'problem'. Life isn't like that. Those are all just symptoms. Symptoms of a society that behaves a certain way just because everybody else does it that way and it's all we've learned. How about you break the cycle for a change and just stop monkey-see, monkey-doing.It's your choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    "Loose" rather than specifically bad parenting can cause youngsters to turn to drink. It's much the same thing with drugs and particularly cannabis. What some parents fail to realise is that they can probably "go steady" but youngsters are always wanting to push the boundaries and that's where the trouble lies together with peer pressure which can have a very detrimental effect on behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @89 Maria Ashot

    Absolutely agree. I can count on one hand how many families sit down at the dining table at mealtimes and talk about their day. Family life is about communication but time constraints on parents stop this from happening. I don`t blame parents for this as they do what they consider what`s best for the family, but employers need to step up to the plate and help support the family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I find this report incredibly interested because I myself have had difficulties with alcohol ever since my first sip at the age of 15 - although I didn't drink regularly until I was almost 18, and I'm now in my mid 30s. My parents were strict, rules out of our control which I found confusing. Also one of my parents has stated they didn't spend enough time holding or with me as a very small child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Surprise, surprise!! So, "tough love" works best.

    I'm old enough to remember expressions such as "Spare the rod and spoil the child" long before they were taken literally and tabooed by the PC/Human Rights do-gooder brigade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    In tonights show, do parenting styles affects the way children behave when they reach adulthood? We'll have more later, but first; do bears crap in the woods? John investigates..

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The bitter truth also being that sending off a very young child to spend all day in someone else's care -- care in which the child is not receiving warm, individualised, one-on-one care -- is also going to leave them vulnerable later in life to problems with drinking. There really is no good substitute for good parenting in the early years. Governments should invest accordingly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    When we had a young family we were in the lucky position where one breadwinner was enough to finance a growing family. Nowadays parents are under enormous pressure. Both parents are working long hours and fighting to keep their jobs just to keep a roof over thier head and food in their mouths. Consequently family cohesion suffers and this is what we see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The more decadent the society the more people will find a need for escapism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    It's not exactly rocket science, good parents raise good children and visa-versa. Of course there are always exceptions but as a rule it's pretty obvious. I can't claim to have succeeded yet, my children are only 8, 10 and 13 but they've never seen my wife or me drunk and even asked the other day if we'd ever been drunk - if only they knew, me anyway!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Further to my previous comment (77), of course blaming the futility of modern life is too simplistic, but my overall impression is that nothing is worse for morale than broken promises. The media and the govt. are to blame for this. Not everybody can achieve all or any of the promised rewards. But that's not the way it's presented to us. Manage peoples expectations, don't falsely inflate them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I find this report very interesting purely on the fact it reviews behaviour up to the age of when I heartily agree parents must be held accountable for their children's behaviour in any field before they grow up, surely at 18, the legal drinking age, accountability and responsibility rest with the individual. I think people find it far to easy to blame others rather than themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    As long as we maintain the "blame somebody else" culture, the problem will remain. You can't blame the government, teachers, the alcohol manufacturers or parents. The fault lies with the individual for making decisions they know are wrong, for not taking responsibility for their own actions and for not accepting the blame for the consequences of their actions. "It's not my fault". "Oh yes it is!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I have to be smug here, and say that the report's recommendations reflect they manner in which I have raised my children, and they are all well-adjusted, considerate, decent individuals.

    I believe the real reason SOME young people drink too much, form feral gangs, or behave violently or anti-socially, has more to do with the 'rights' freely given to them, with no requirement to earn those rights


Page 6 of 11


More UK stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.