New warning on impacts of parental drinking

Around a third of children surveyed reported having felt embarrassed, confused, angry, worried, scared or ignored. Picture: LightFieldStudios
Around a third of children surveyed reported having felt embarrassed, confused, angry, worried, scared or ignored. Picture: LightFieldStudios
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A new report from a leading alcohol harm prevention charity highlights that parental drinking even at low levels can have an impact on children’s emotional wellbeing.

The research also shows that higher levels of alcohol intake can contribute to a child’s risk of physical harm.

However, Alcohol Focus Scotland say the findings clearly convey the unintentional nature of most of the harm experienced by children as a result of parental drinking.

They say parents, services and relevant family support staff often have a lack of understanding as to the impact lower-level drinking can have on children’s immediate emotional and physical wellbeing.

The research took the form of an online survey comprising 200 interviews with families in Scotland.

More than half of the children surveyed reported that they had seen their parent tipsy, and a third said that they had seen them drunk.

For each family, both a parent and one of their children (aged between ten and 17 years) were interviewed. The majority of parents surveyed said they drank within the UK Chief Medical Officers’ safe alcohol guidelines of 14 units per week.

Around a third of children surveyed, whose parents mostly drank within the low-risk drinking guidelines, reported having felt embarrassed, confused, angry, worried, scared or ignored as a result of their parent’s drinking.

Two-fifths of children surveyed reported that their parent’s drinking had caused them to be unpredictable; pay them less attention than usual; and even make them late for school among a host of other problems.

Alison Douglas, chief executive, of Alcohol Focus Scotland said that the report highlights the “often unintentional” effects of drinking, even at low levels in front of our children.

She added: “As well as the negative impacts on children’s wellbeing, seeing how we drink can have a big influence on our children’s future drinking habits.

“We’re not suggesting that alcohol is hidden away and becomes never spoken about, quite the opposite – we want to encourage parents to start a conversation with their children.

“It’s important to understand what they notice and how it makes them feel when we drink.”

She added: “All parents want to do what’s best for their children, but it’s challenging when increasingly alcohol is presented as a normal part of everyday life.”