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"Feeling the effects"

11 December 2012

SABMiller is pleased to be supporting the launch in the UK parliament of a report by the think-tank Demos.  The report, entitled “Feeling the Effects”  is the outcome of a two-year partnership between Demos and SABMiller which has focused on research into youth binge-drinking in the United Kingdom. 

Although alcohol consumption in the UK has fallen by 13% since 2005, a culture of ‘binge drinking’ has developed whereby a relatively small section of young people in society see it as acceptable to behave in an anti-social way after having drunk excessive amounts of alcohol.

Demos’ research has focused on the impact that parenting styles and drinking patterns can have on children’s attitudes to alcohol, and their future drinking behaviour. 

“Feeling the Effects” follows on from the influential study “Under the Influence”  which found that the way parents bring up their children is one of the most important and statistically reliable influences on whether a child will drink responsibly in adolescence and adulthood. 

Looking at a study of 30,000 children, Demos found that certain types of parenting styles at age 16 makes a child over eight times more likely to drink excessively at that age and more than twice as likely to drink excessively at 34.  The research also found that ‘tough love’ parenting, which combines consistent warmth and discipline, is the most effective parenting style to prevent an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

The second phase of the research builds on these findings.  Based on an analysis of over 17,000 people, and in-depth interviews with 50 families where there was at least one problem drinker, “Feeling the Effects” reveals that teenagers who perceive their mother to drink ‘always’ are almost two times more likely to drink hazardously themselves as adults than those who reported that their mother drank ‘sometimes’.

The report also finds that parents who are perceived by their children to drink ‘always’ are between 2 and 2.6 times less likely (for father and mother respectively) to be ‘tough love’ parents style than more moderate drinkers.

What’s clear from Demos’s research is that the evidence shows that the way parents interact with their children around alcohol does matter.  By combining warmth and discipline, and setting a positive example around responsible drinking, parents can make a significant impact on the way their children drink when they become adults. 

The report’s recommendations include identifying problem-drinking parents early on and a range of family-based interventions.  However, it goes much wider than that – aiming at all parents, not just those who drink too much.  Here, Demos, in part, look to the alcohol industry, suggesting that we use our marketing expertise to help educate parents.

In the UK the charity Drinkaware, which is funded by the industry, does some good work in this area and we also have our own multi-lingual website TalkingAlcohol.com.

We are currently evaluating the recommendations and will look to see how best we can incorporate Demos’s work into some of our existing schemes.  We will also be working with them to ensure that policy makers and politicians understand the long-term benefit to society of educating and engaging parents. 

Culture can be changed and while the answer is not as simple as saying ‘it’s all to do with the parents’ Demos’s findings make it clear how significant a role they have to play.  

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