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Parents’ Habits Influence Drinking Behavior of Children

Parents debate whether their drinking habits affect the choices of their children: should they drink responsibly in front of them or forego alcohol altogether in their presence? If the parents occasionally drink to excess, will it affect their children adversely? New evidence shows that parental drinking habits do influence the choices of their children, both the extent of their drinking and the age at which they begin to participate in alcohol consumption.

In 2006, Seljamo et al published a longitudinal study using information gathered from participants in South Western Finland. The study began in 1986 and into 1987, conducting interviews with 1,287 parents pregnant with the child participant. 846 of the parental participants were interviewed again seven years later (this was 66% of the original participants) and after eight more years the parents and their child participants were both interviewed (77% of the second wave’s participants were interviewed again).

In each administration of the questionnaire, the parents were asked about their drinking habits and history. They were asked the age at which they first consumed alcohol and their drinking habits during the last six months. The parents were also asked questions about their socio-demographic factors, such as marital status, employment, etc.).

During the third wave of data collection, the teen participants were asked about their alcohol use and alcohol-related injuries. The results were used to analyze the relationship between the teen participants’ drinking habits, both the fathers’ and the mothers’ alcohol-related behaviors and socio-demographic factors.

The researchers found that 83% of girls and 79% of boys had used alcohol by the time they were 15 years old. Children whose parents were introduced to alcohol consumption at an early age were more likely to drink than teen participants with parents who drank at a later age. The study showed that the parents’ drinking behaviors in the last six months were also positively related to adolescent drinking. Parental separation was also positively correlated with adolescent drinking.

There are limitations to this study, including a lack of measures to determine alcohol dependence. The study did not look at the attitudes of the participants towards alcohol and because of self-reporting the study may have under or over reported alcohol use. The study also had a decline in participation between each wave of data collection, and the findings did not report whether teen participants who were not using alcohol were using other drugs such as marijuana.

The research outlines important information for parents. The children questioned in the study showed how behaviors of the parents can influence their children’s drinking habits. Future study showing how attitudes and beliefs about drinking correlate between parents and children would be helpful in establishing programs to educate parents on both their actual behavior and their attitudes about drinking.

Posted on November 21, 2009 and modified on April 28, 2019

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