Foster, J., Bryant, L., & Brown, K. (2017). “Like sugar for adults”. The effects of non-parental drinking on children and families. Institute of Alcohol Studies.

This chapter explores the effect of non-dependent parental drinking on a variety of child outcomes, including a child’s attitudes and expectations around alcohol, their consumption habits as they grow up, and adverse consequences like educational delay, neglect, abuse or violence.

This mixed methods study analysed data generated from a public inquiry, four focus groups, and an online survey representative of the UK population. The survey included linked answers from 997 parents, and their children. These methods were employed to explore the gap identified in the literature, and examine the effect of lower end parental drinking on children. Dependent drinkers were excluded from the survey.

►  While relatively small numbers of children in our study reported the most worrying impacts, we identified a clear gradient with more children reporting problems in line with increasing parental consumption.

►  As these findings are drawn from a sample overwhelmingly drinking below the CMO’s low risk drinking guidelines, this suggests that such impacts can begin from relatively low levels of parental alcohol consumption.

►  That comparable effects are noted for children seeing their parents tipsy or drunk suggest the way in which parents and their children view episodes of ‘tipsy’ drinking is quite different from one another. Children do not seem to differentiate between seeing their parents tipsy and drunk.

►  Echoing previous research, this shows it may be wrong to assume that negative impacts of parental drinking are only associated with higher levels of consumption.



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