It is no secret that the behaviour of parents can affect the actions of their children, and now new research suggests that this can extend to drinking habits. According to a new study by the charity Drinkaware, children whose parents regularly exceed the daily unit limit for the consumption of alcohol - no more than three to four units for a man and two to three units for a woman - are more likely to have been drunk themselves.
The poll of more than 1,400 parents and around 50 of their children aged ten to 17 revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that parents who drink above the recommended amount of alcohol on a regular basis take a more relaxed approach to under-aged drinking than those who are teetotal or never exceed the guidelines. Parents who regularly exceeded the unit guidelines are more likely to think it is "inevitable" that children under 16 will drink and that it is "fine" to give alcohol to youngsters in this age group, and less likely to believe that their behaviour has any effect on how their children view alcohol.
As a result, nearly one-in-five children who had parents that exceeded the guidelines had been drunk before, compared to just 11 per cent whose parents do not. Furthermore, youngsters whose parents consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol are also nearly twice as likely to drink at least once a month than those whose parents do not exceed the limits.
Siobhan McCann, head of campaigns and communications at Drinkaware, believes that part of a problem is a lack of knowledge about what constitutes a unit. For example, not many people realise that the daily recommended guidelines constitutes no more than a pint and a half of four per cent beer for men and a 175ml glass of wine for women.
"Most parents want their children to grow up with a healthy relationship with alcohol and try to set a good example," she said. "The problem is that some parents drink above the guidelines without realising and this in turn influences their children's attitudes and behaviour. When it comes to alcohol, parents have the biggest influence on their children and lots of children would turn to their parents first for advice."
For this reason, it is important that parents maintain an awareness on how much they drink not only to avoid developing an alcohol addiction but also in order to set a healthy example for their children. There was some positive news from the survey, however, as it showed that the majority of children and teens do have a sensible approach (77 per cent) and believe that it is not "cool" for people their age to get drunk. The upcoming festive season will be a real test for parents and their children, as Christmas is a time when many people indulge in more alcohol than they would normally.