The link between the drinking habits of parents and their children's relationship to alcohol was revealed in a study by the independent charity Drinkaware.
It found that 19% of youngsters who had parents drinking over recommended guidelines had been drunk before, compared with 11% of children whose parents drink below the guidelines or not at all. Similarly, 21% of children with heavy-drinking parents drink at least monthly in comparison with just 12% of youngsters whose parents do not exceed guidelines. The findings come after a separate warning by Drinkaware revealed drinking had become a "greater part of women's lives" over the past fifty years.
Last month, England's chief medical officer said the drinking culture needed to change - particularly among young women - to stop the "rising tide" of liver disease. The country has seen deaths from liver disease increase by a fifth over the last decade in direct contrast to other European countries.
It is fuelled by obesity, alcohol abuse and preventable liver infections. Prof Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said one of the main problems was our drinking culture that needed to change.
Siobhan McCann, head of campaigns at Drinkaware, said: "Most parents want their children to grow up with a healthy relationship with alcohol and try to set a good example. 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." Government advice says men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day (a pint and a half of 4% beer) and women 2-3 units (a 175 ml glass of wine).
The research, carried out by Ipsos Mori, polled 1,433 parents from social grades ABC1 across the UK and 652 of their children aged 10 to 17. It showed that parents who drink above the unit guidelines also have a more relaxed attitude to underage drinking than parents who are teetotal or drink within the guidelines. They are more likely to think it is inevitable that children under 16 will drink and more likely to think it is fine for parents to give alcohol to youngsters that age. They are also less likely to think their own drinking has the biggest effect on their children's attitude to alcohol.
On a more positive note, the survey found that the majority of children had what it called a "sensible" attitude to drink. More than three-quarters (77%) of 10 to 17-year-olds think that seeing young people their age getting drunk is not "cool", while 93% think it is not okay for someone their age to get drunk once a week. Just over one in 10 children believe it is okay to try getting drunk to see what it is like.
The research also found that more than a third (36%) of parents who drink above the recommended daily guidelines believe they drink within safe limits.
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