Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council: Drinking behaviour research

Research has revealed that many parents and carers are not knowledgeable about the impact their drinking has upon their parenting ability and their children’s propensity to drink harmfully at an early age.

Over recent years research has highlighted the impact that parental drinking style has upon children and young people, with evidence suggesting that around a fifth of all children in the UK live with a ‘hazardous’ drinker as a parent and that there is a close connection between parental drinking, parenting style and how likely it is that children grow up to misuse alcohol on a regular basis (i.e. binge drink).

The Public Health team within Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council commissioned Public Knowledge to conduct research aimed at examining parent and carer behaviours, beliefs and values in relation to parental drinking and the influence this has upon children and their drinking behaviour. They also asked us to speak with young people to gain an understanding of how they view their parents’ and other adults’ drinking behaviour and how this behaviour affects them.

Public Knowledge recruited parents and carers of 5-16 year olds from 6 selected wards in Dudley to participate in one of 12 focus groups. Individuals were recruited according to the age of their children, the ward they lived in and their drinking behaviour (higher/increasing risk drinkers and low risk drinkers). The adult groups explored parent and carer drinking behaviour around their children, their attitudes towards child exposure to alcohol, their knowledge of the health and social consequence of children drinking and their role in educating their children about the dangers of alcohol and responsible drinking. They were also asked what sort of information/support they would like to receive to help them talk to their children about responsible drinking.

In addition, we also recruited young people (children aged 11-16 years) to attend one of three mini groups focusing on their knowledge of alcohol, who influences them most, whether their parents/carers have spoken to them about alcohol and who they would feel most comfortable speaking to.

The research uncovered many interesting insights which were reported back to the Public Health team in a full written report containing verbatim from participants and a face-to-face presentation of the research findings. Insights included that:

  • Many parents and carers feel it is negative to shield children from drinking and are happy for children to be exposed to adult drinking on ‘special occasions’; however what represents a special occasion differs for higher/increasing risk drinkers and low risk drinkers.

Many low risk drinkers see occasions of exposure as occasions to educate their children on responsible drinking.

  • Parental drinking is seen as the ‘norm’ by children, including pre night-out drinks and day after hangovers.

Parents and children should be engaged in the education process as some parents lack basic knowledge themselves.

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