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London - Mothers who drink heavily risk passing down their bad habits to their children, warns a think-tank.
Teenagers whose mothers “always” drank were nearly twice as likely to have alcohol problems in adulthood, it said.
The authors added that ministers should focus more on parenting instead of minimum pricing to tackle binge drinking.
They warn that many parents – particularly the middle class – “reach for a bottle of wine at night to cope with the stress”.
While adults may think it has “no impact on their families”, this habit may be “hampering” their ability to be effective parents.
The research by Demos claims that as many as 2.5 million children – a fifth of the total – live with a parent who drinks hazardously.
The study insists that the example set by a family is far more important than the proposed minimum price per unit of alcohol.
Demos examined a survey of 17,000 adults in their 30s questioned about their alcohol consumption. They were asked how often their mother and father drank when they were 16, with the options always, often, sometimes or never.
The respondents also ranked the effectiveness of the parenting they had received, with four categories ranging from “tough love” at the top to “laissez-faire” at the bottom.
Those whose mothers “always” drank were found to be 1.7 times more likely to admit they were now hazardous drinkers themselves.
This was defined as exceeding the NHS recommended safe drinking level of 21 units a week for a man or 14 units for a woman.
Similarly, mothers who had “always” drunk alcohol were three times more likely to be described by their children as “disengaged”. The report claimed that a fifth of children, including 90,000 babies, live in families where at least one parent drank “hazardously”.
“Many parents think their drinking has little or no impact on their families, convincing themselves that if they feed and clean their children and make sure they attend school, they have fulfilled their most important duties,” it added.
“Yet, as our research suggests, alcohol misuse is potentially hampering their ability to be the most effective type of parent.”
Last month, the British government announced proposals to impose a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol to tackle binge-drinking. But the think-tank said it would be far better to focus on parenting.
Lead author Jonathan Birdwell said: “The children in these families should be our number one priority and higher prices are likely to only increase their suffering.
“The government should focus on ensuring that parents who are misusing alcohol have all the support they need to be effective parents.
“This is the best approach to minimising harm to children and ensuring that the cycle of excessive consumption is reduced.
“The prime minister has said that binge drinking needs to be ‘attacked from every angle’ but the proposals tend to be limited to technocratic solutions like minimum pricing.” - Daily Mail