Nearly half of all 10-14 year olds in the UK have seen or think they have seen their parents drunk at least once claims drinks charity Drinkaware.
Out of 1,000 families questioned in the survey, four in 10 of children aged 10-14 said that they had seen or believed they had seen a parent or parent’s partner drunk, while three in 10 said they had seen parents drunk on more than one occasion.
The children were specifically asked if they had seen their parents drunk and this was clarified as: “Having drunk enough to feel less in control, wobbly or under strong influence of alcohol. This might result in people doing something or saying things that they wouldn’t normally do or say without drinking”.
Answering to questions posed by the drinks business as to whether or not a child of 10 is capable of recognising drunkenness, a spokesperson for Drinkaware cited a study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which in 2010 published a report entitled, “Pre-teens learning about alcohol: drinking in family contexts”.
The study apparently showed that: “Children in the study group (aged 7-12 years) demonstrated a fairly sophisticated knowledge of alcohol. Many were able to identify differing levels of adults’ intoxication and differentiate between occasional and habitual drunkenness.
“Across the study age range, children demonstrate an understanding of alcohol and its effects, and an ability to appraise different consumption styles. Many are able to identify differing levels of adults’ intoxication and to differentiate between occasional and habitual drunkenness, indicating an understanding of addiction and problematic drinking, and of acceptable and unacceptable drinking behaviour.”
However, in this instance the children were not asked for specific details of where the adults were seen to be drunk, for example at a party or drinking alone, so the context of the apparent drunken behaviour and whether the exposure to that behaviour may be construed as harmful or not is difficult to judge.
It is estimated that 3.4 million children in the UK live with habitual binge drinkers and some 740,000 live with an excessive and possibly dangerous drinker. Though it is important to realise the damaging effect such an influence may have on children, unaddressed are the possible benefits of a positive and healthy exposure to drinking as part of normal adult life and interaction – benefits which remain unaddressed by simply asking for instances of inebriation.
Although the charity said it was “promising” that 72% of parents said they felt confident about talking to their children about alcohol and that 75% felt themselves best placed to do so, it added: “Parents could be giving mixed messages to children about responsible drinking by appearing drunk in front of them.”
The charity has announced it is to launch a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the issues surrounding children and alcohol, encouraging parents to think of the impact being seen drunk may have on their children.
Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware said: “While setting rules about alcohol and speaking to children about the risks is a positive step, equally important is that parents understand their significant influence as role models and feel confident to set a good example.
“Children are aware of alcohol from a young age. Estimates suggest that around one in three children under 16 in the UK live with an adult binge drinker, and studies show that the odds of a teenager getting drunk double if they have seen their parents drunk – even if only on a few occasions.
“Understanding the impact of what parents say as well as what they do is important, as both can shape children’s attitudes towards alcohol.”