This paper addresses a major problem affecting children; drinking behaviour. It specifically focuses on heavy drinking by parents and what effects it has on their children’s drinking behaviours. It uses such ideas as normalizing, role modeling, social learning theory, parent’s intoxication, and what the research say about the issues in order to find out the effects of parent’s drinking habits on their children. The paper therefore focuses on secondary research on the effect of parents’ heavy drinking on their children’s drinking behaviours. Secondary data is used to predict the impact of parents’ drinking habits on their children.
The research problem
Alcohol drinking is one of the most common ways of substance abuse in the world. Heavy drinking affects families in many ways. For instance, causes detrimental health problems to the individuals who consume it. Drinking also ruins family relationships and causes havoc to associations in every social setting. For example, parents who drink sometimes cause chaos in their families and engage in family wrangles. Drank individuals often engage in irresponsible behaviours such as fights and use of abusive language. These behaviours may cause physical and/or emotional and psychological harm to members of the family. Research reports indicate that non-drinking members of a family in which one or more of its members drink are often subjected to psychological trauma and dysfunction (Velleman & Templeton, 2003). Parents who drink may also resort to fights while they are drunken causing injuries to themselves or to their children. Parents who drink may also be irresponsible and fail to undertake their duties and responsibilities as parents. As a result, they may lack the support children need in their growth and development. They may even fail to provide the basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter and food. Furthermore, the economic status of drinkers and their families is often affected by heavy drinking habits. This is because drinkers often spend the money they earn on alcohol, even to the last coin. Furthermore, parents’ heavy drinking impact on their children’s drinking behaviours which in turn affect the children’s living standards.
Research shows that parents’ habits have both direct and indirect impact on their children’s choices and behaviour. It is with this light of evidence that we seek to determine whether the drinking behaviour of children could possibly be a result of their parent’s heavy drinking. Of course there are many factors leading to the drinking habits of children such as peer influence, stress, curiosity and other environmental factors. However, secondary research shows that the influence of parents is the most significant contributing factor to children’s drinking habits (NACADA, 2011). This is due to the fact that parents are the first and most influential models for their children. Parents also genetically affect the habits of their children in all aspects including drinking the influence on drinking behaviours. This project design attempts to determine whether these assertions of prior research are significantly dependable. The research therefore attempts to answer the following research questions:
- Should parents drink heavily in front of their children or completely abandon the habit in their presence?
- If the parents exercise excessive drinking, will it impact adversely on their children?
- Are the drinking habits of children more influenced by their parent’s heavy drinking or by other factors?
- Do heavy drinking habits of parents lead to irresponsible drinking behaviours of children at an early age
Alcohol abuse is a common practice among many young people across the world especially in the western world. Recent researches show that many adolescents drink regularly (Hibell et al., 2004; and Trimbos, 2004). For instance, Trimbos (2004) suggests that 85% of secondary school pupils in Netherlands experimented drinking in 2003 and 58% of them used alcohol in the same year. Drinking problems among adolescent children are often associated with quite a number of factors. One of them is psychological motivations. Chalder, Elgar and Bennett (2006) argue that adolescents often engage in risky activities and may therefore be motivated by the psychological and/or physiological effects derived from drinking alcohol. Further research also indicates that children, especially females, drink alcohol so as to cope with negative feelings such as stress (King et al., 1996). Parental and peer influence also affect the drinking habits of children and adolescents.
Research indicates that one of the most significant factor associated with the rise in drinking behaviours is their social environment especially their peer groups and families. MacPherson et al. (2001) suggests that in the current millennium parents transmit their drinking behaviours to their offspring due to the great role they play in modeling, normalizing, social learning and genetic transmission. Parents’ drinking habits have been a major factor influencing children’s drinking behaviours for a very long time. For instance, research done in 1990s indicates the same trend as current research. Kushner and Sher (1991) suggest that 82% of parents who drink brought up children with drinking habits. Further, the research indicated that 72% of parents who abstain from drinking often raise children who don’t drink. In this regard, it is therefore plausible to postulate that parent’s excessive drinking habits influence their children’s drinking behaviours.
Parents are the primary role models and social agents of their children (NACADA, 2011). Evidence shows that parenting habits have a big influence on children’s behaviours. More specifically, it can be argued that heavy drinking by parents affect the drinking habits of their children negatively (Jackson, 1997). There are several ways through which problems associated with heavy drinking are passed on from parents to their children. This can be through genetics during conception and birth, psychological causes such as modeling of drinking habits by parents, physiological sensitivity, anxiety feeling, accessibility of alcohol and inadequate parental care (Chalder, Elgar and Bennett, 2006). Children’s drinking habits tend to relate well with parents’ drinking behaviours in many aspects. Parents who drink provide a good basis for their children’s drinking behaviours. Children always imitate and adopt their parents’ behaviours including drinking habits since parents are the first models and teachers of their children.
- Aims and objectives
- Aims of the study:
- To develop a conceptual model on the effects of parent’s heavy drinking on their children’s drinking behaviours
- To provide parents with theoretical and conceptual information about the effect of their heavy drinking on their children’s drinking behaviours
- To provide the government and the civil society with theoretical and conceptual information about the impact of parent’s drinking habits so as to enable them make and implement relevant policies on drinking
- To provide relevant information about the influence of parents’ drinking habits on their children’s drinking behaviours for purposes of clinical intervention and health policies.
- Objectives of the study
- To find out the relationship between parent’s heavy drinking and their children’s drinking habits
- To determine the effects of parent’s drinking on the drinking behaviours of their children
- To find out the most influential parental actions on the drinking habits of children
The relationship between the drinking habits of parents and their children’s drinking behaviors
Quite a number of studies have been advanced to establish the relationship between the drinking habits of parents and their children’s drinking behaviors (Benzmiller, 2009; Tyler et al., 2006; NACADA, 2011; Scholte, et al., 2008 and Jackson, 1997). All these studies tend to converge at the proposition that parent’s drinking habits have adverse impacts on their children’s drinking habits. In this regard, high drinking habits of parents lead to higher levels of irresponsible drinking habits of their children. Many of these researches attribute this finding to the fact that parents are role models to their children and whatever they do is imitated by their children. Other studies also indicate that parents’ drinking habits are at times genetically transmitted to children while others show that children adapt their parents’ drinking behaviours through social learning. Parent’s being the closest social agents to their children often transmit their drinking habits to their children in their ordinary socializations within their family systems. Therefore, relationships established by these studies have been explained with respect to existing social theories. These theories include modeling theory and family systems theory. These theories, though at times conflicting, relate to the relationships between parents’ habits and their children’s drinking behaviours.
Benzmiller (2009) carried out a study on college students to find out if parental drinking affects the drinking habits of their children. In his study, he contends that the drinking behaviour of adolescence can be explained using social learning theory and family system theory. This section of his study will be discussed later on the section of social learning theory vs. family systems theory. For now, we focus on Benzmiller’s findings on the relationship between parental heavy drinking and children’s drinking behaviours. In this respect, the research hypothesized that college students experiencing parental heavy drinking have greater chances of drinking heavily as well. His analyses supported the hypothesis. The responses of young people interviewed in this research indicate that their drinking behaviours have a lot to do with their parent’s behaviours in one way or another. The results therefore indicated that parents who do not drink heavily lead their children to abstain from drinking. On the other hand, children whose parents drink heavily are more likely to exhibit drinking behaviours.
The unique feature of Benzmiller’s study is the fact that he classified parental influence on drinking into two categories and similarly categorized children’s drinking behaviour perception in two perspectives. Benzmiller (2009) defined children’s drinking behaviour in terms of both self-described alcohol use and bingeing, and these elements of drinking became the researcher’s dependent variables. The researcher contends that these two classifications were necessary in the study since the way in which a drinker describes his own drinking behaviour differs from how an external objective observer does. In his study, the researcher also used two independent variables; parental alcohol use and parental attitudes towards alcohol use. Benzmiller’s study found out that the students interviewed showed consistency in their response to the two dependent variables since 81.9% of those who claimed to have abstained from drinking have actually objectively abstained from drinking. Benzmiller (2009) carried out a cross-tabulation and association relationship measures of both primary independent variables (parental attitudes towards drinking and parental alcohol use pattern) and dependent variables (self-described alcohol use and binge drinking frequency). The results of this research activity were that there is a significantly positive association between both independent variables of children drinking and both dependent variables. This indicates that children drinking behaviours depends on their parent’s characteristics. Essentially, this research indicates that students/children whose parents drink heavily or agree with their drinking behaviours are often associated with drinking behaviours more than those students/children whose parents do not drink or do not agree with their drinking habits.
Scholte et al. (2008) also analyzed the risks inherent in regular drinking by adolescents and young adults who live with drinking parents, friends and siblings. The study used a sample of an unknown number of13-22 year old twins and their parents in Netherlands. The question they were to respond to is, “how often do you drink alcohol?” the answers were ranked in a scale of 1-8 where 1 represented “I do not drink alcohol” while 8 represented “daily”. The research contends that there are higher chances to drink when parents and siblings are heavy drinkers than when they are not. The risk of drinking was also found out to be dependent on age. The study indicated that the influence of drinking parents, friends and siblings reduced with age. In adolescence, the risk of drinking due to friends’ influence reduces but the risk of drinking due to parent’s drinking is still prevalent and this is still the case in young adulthood. Therefore, the research indicates that parent’s drinking habits influence their children’s drinking behaviours at all ages.
While attempting to find out the relationship between parents’ heavy drinking and their children’s drinking behaviours, some studies suggest that factors such as age and risks associated with drinking need to be considered. Carle and Chassin (2004) postulate that how young children cope with drinking parents differ significantly from how adolescents and young adults cope with drinking parents. Questions have always been raised on whether young children experience anxiety, fears and other emotional attachments to their parent’s drinking behaviours. Some studies indicate that young children of below six years are not significantly affected by their parent’s drinking habits in terms of emotional and psychological positions. However, Scholte et al. (2008) indicate that all children equally experience the risks associated with their parents’ drinking habits. Velleman & Templeton (2003) posit that children who are brought up by drinking parents often feel socially isolated and lonely. Interviews carried out on children indicated that even young children may adopt certain behaviours in an endeavor to adapt to their situation. They tend to adopt mechanisms of dealing with their parents’ drinking behaviour, detachment and depression. Sometimes children opt to keep their problems a secret, switch off or blame themselves for their situations with drinking parents. These actions make them psychologically dysfunctional. As a result, they may resort to drinking behaviours just like their parents.
Social learning theory vs. Family systems theory
Further research was also carried out by Tyler et al. (2006). The research focused on drinking behaviours of children under the age of 18, claiming that the influence of parents on their children weaken as the children grow beyond 18 years. In this study, it is clear that as children advance in their education and join colleges and universities, the influence of their parents on their drinking habits is highly reduced because the interaction and modeling of their parents become limited. At this age, children resort to peers as their behavioural models. The study shows that as children go to school; their parents have little influence on their behaviour. However, the study established that parental heavy drinking results in high drinking by their children. This study is also unique in the sense that it attempts to link parental influence on children’s drinking with race. Tyler et al. (2006) observe that parental drinking models have little effect on the drinking behaviours of non-whites’ children. This observation is attributed to the fact that children of the non-white races often have little expectations about drinking. Minority groups are seen to be relating alcohol use with negative outcomes. As such, they are often less likely to model their parents’ drinking behaviour which they consider unhealthy.
The study by Tyler et al. (2006) is vested majorly on theory. In essence, the study tends to suggest that there is a relationship between race and children drinking behaviours. This can be explained using the family systems theory in contrast to the social learning theory. However, Benzmiller (2009) provides a very important insight into the difference between the two theories which gives us an opportunity to question Tyler et al.’s research findings. Benzmiller (2009) suggests that social learning theory claims that children’s drinking behaviours are associated with the children’s direct imitation of their parents’ drinking. Therefore, heavy drinkers tend to have children who drink heavily while parents who abstain often have abstaining children. This indicates that in social learning theory there is a causal relationship between parents and children in drinking. On the other hand, family systems theory differs with this direct relationship and provides that importance should not be placed on the behaviours of parents but on the interaction styles between parents and their children. Tyler et al. (2009) therefore tend to postulate using the family systems theory that it is possible for abstaining parents to bring up a child who drinks heavily and heavy drinkers may bring up abstaining children, provided there are other factors which contribute to the observed drinking behavior of children. One of the other factors provided by Tyler et al. (2009) is the cultural orientation of a given race. Therefore, Tyler et al. (2009) conclude that for as long as races differ in beliefs there will always be a difference on the drinking behaviours of children among races, provided the family systems theory holds. In their study, non-whites don’t sufficiently relate their drinking behaviours to their parent’s drinking habits but the outcome of the drinking behaviours.
Parenting style, modeling and genetics
Several other studies have also been advanced to explain the effects of parental alcohol use on their children’s drinking behaviours using normalizing, modeling and genetic concepts. Evidence from past research indicates that drinking affects children’s development and alcohol addiction among young children (Squeglia et al., 2009). This is highly attributed to the fact that there is a general disregard of the parents’ role to delay alcohol use among children. Parenting style is viewed as one of the determinant factors in influencing the levels of children’s drinking behaviours (Patock-Peckham and Morgan-Lopez, 2007). Given the uniqueness of every parent, the manner in which each parent interacts with his/her children influences their overall behaviour. Therefore, the ways in which drinking parents interact with their children often affects the drinking behaviours of their children. Squeglia et al. (2009) categorizes parental styles into four types: authoritarian parents, permissive parents, neglectful parents and authoritative parents.
The study of Squeglia et al. (2009) indicates that authoritarian parents highly control discipline their children without much warmth or even responsiveness. Such parents punish their children for exhibiting drinking behaviours without considering the influence of their own drinking habits while letting non-drinking behaviours go without being noticed. These parents tend to cause more psychological problems to their children who may resort to even heavier drinking habits. Permissive parents are those parents who exercise low control and discipline on their children while at the same time expressing high warmth and responsiveness towards them. Such parents never punish irresponsive drinking behaviours and never set boundaries on children’s drinking behaviours. This is also a negative category of parenting style which may motivate children to do whatever their peers influence them to do and whatever they feel like doing, including use of alcohol.
Neglectful parents impose low discipline and low control over their children as well as low warmth and low responsiveness. For instance, such parents pay no attention at all to their children’s drinking behaviours. As a result, such children often feel free to do whatever they want to do, such as alcohol abuse. Finally, authoritative parents impose high levels of discipline and control on their children but with high levels of warmth and responsiveness. This is the best parenting style since it enables the parents to minimize bad drinking behaviours while at the same time creating a good response from the children towards their warmth and responsiveness. As a result, such children are always happy to do good things and they don’t feel depressed when their parents refuse them to do certain things such as drinking alcohol. Jackson (2002) agrees with this finding, claiming that children who are brought up by parents exhibiting authoritative parenting style often behave more responsively than their peers. This responsive behaviour includes the minimal use of alcohol and no binge drinking among their children. Such parents often learn problem solving techniques and emotional responsiveness towards their children; hence they are able to protect their children against psychological problems that often lead to alcohol consumption (Patock-Peckham and Morgan-Lopez, 2007). Discipline and control by parents enables children to make healthy decisions regarding drinking.
Research further indicates that children’s drinking problems are often associated with authoritarian and permissive parenting styles (Mayes & Truman, 2002). This is further propelled by parents’ unrealistic expectations of their children’s capabilities. Parental heavy drinking may also express inconsistency in expressing warmth, affection and responsiveness towards their children while they raise them. Moreover, the levels of supervision that parents accord their children are also hampered by their drinking habits.
In modeling, parents’ provide their children with different approaches to certain issues. Parents’ behaviours enable their children to imitate them and act exactly like them, believing that what their parents are doing is good for them too. There is always an assumption that if parents allow their children to drink at home then they can be able to adopt the right relationship with alcohol. However, research indicates that this is not the case. For instance, Komro et al. (2007) suggest that children who imitate their parent’s drinking behaviour at home and are allowed by their parents to do so are more likely to exhibit higher levels of irresponsible drinking behaviours than children who lack parental drinking models. Furthermore, research indicates that children who practice drinking at home due to an influence of their parents’ drinking behaviour tend to drink heavily once they step outside their homes (van der Vorst et al., 2010). On the contrary, children whose parents drink responsively and don’t allow their children to drink at home are more likely to abstain from drinking.
There are other studies which suggest that modeling by drinking parents does not lead to children’s drinking behaviour. Foley et al. (2004) suggest that children who drink with their parents in the right context are less likely to exhibit excessive drinking behaviours. However, most research evidences support the proposition that parents’ permissiveness of drinking among children alongside poor modeling and communication leads to children’s unhealthy drinking behaviours. Research indicates that poor parental modeling that is occasioned by heavy drinking affect peer relationships that children develop. As a result, children brought up by heavy drinkers tend to participate in irresponsible drinking behaviours and join irresponsible peer groups (Carle and Chassin, 2004). Poor modeling and supervision by parents makes their children to imitate the behaviours of their peers. The case is even worse if the parents are heavy drinkers because their children are more likely to relate with drinking peers.
Genetic factors also affect children’s drinking behaviours. In this case, whatever parents teach their children about drinking does not have any significant effect on their drinking behaviours. Genes are specific to certain group or individual. They therefore affect the development of drinking behaviours differently on different groups or individuals. For instance, people of Asian origin often have a naturally unpleasant attitude towards alcohol which helps to avoid heavy drinking. On the other hand, some individuals have highly positive attitude towards alcohol. For such people to experience the real influence of alcohol they always seek to drink more than others. Furthermore, some personality traits are genetically prone to alcohol drinking. Schuckit (2009) contends that a parent who drinks heavily increases his/her child’s risk of developing alcohol problems related to genes. Therefore, some alcohol drinking genetic factors may be inherited by children from their parents, leading to children’s drinking behaviours.
Literature review philosophy
From this literature review, it is clearly evident that like in any other study field, studies on children’s drinking behaviour differ sharply. While other propositions hold that parent’s heavy drinking behaviours have no influence children’s drinking behaviours based on family systems theory, others contend that parent’s drinking behaviours impact on the drinking behaviours of their children (based on social learning theory). However, most of the studies in this review of literature tend to converge at the assertion that parent’s drinking behaviours affects the drinking behaviours of their children. Literature shows that children often model their parents’ drinking behaviours, hence developing similar drinking behaviours as those of their parents. Parents who drink heavily also develop poor parenting styles such as permissiveness and authoritarian parental styles. These parenting styles lead such children to develop irresponsible drinking behaviours. On the other hand, parents who don’t drink exhibit authoritative parenting styles which enables them to control their children as well as showing warmth and affection towards them. Parental heavy drinking also makes children to genetically develop drinking behaviours since personality traits are transmitted genetically from parents to children. Furthermore, children who live with drinking parents often face emotional and psychological dysfunction, hence resorting to drinking behaviours.
This study will use both secondary and primary methods of data collection. The secondary sources of data will include books and journals from libraries and internet. They will also comprise of other sources found in the internet including reliable websites. These data will be collected through a good synthesis and classification of information found on the internet and in books and journals. This process will involve regular visits to libraries, computer internet search engines and discussions with other researchers and learners. The collected information will first be recorded and synthesized before being analyzed so as to avoid inclusion of irrelevant information in the secondary data.
On the other hand, the primary sources will include a sample of 1,330 students selected from 110 colleges and secondary schools in the UK. Survey is to be carried out on these participants using a questionnaire. The sample of students will be required to complete the questionnaires using specific criteria provided in the questionnaires and which has been used by other studies in the past. The researcher will personally deliver the survey questionnaires to the respondents and guide the respondents in the interview process. For children who are not able to apply complex syntax and semantics in the survey will be questioned face to face by the researcher through very friendly mechanisms.
The data analysis will include the use of charts and/or graphs as well as statistical measures such as mean and median to represent the data for easy analysis. The information from the secondary and primary data will be analyzed separately. The secondary data will be analyzed using the modeling and family system theories. The collected and recorded data will be categorized as either modeling theory, normalizing theory, family systems theory or social learning theory. The validity and appropriateness of such data will then be objectively evaluated using the fundamental elements and aspects of each given theory. They are then related to the findings of primary research to provide more concrete evidence for assertions of the secondary studies.
The primary data will first be represented on tables, charts and subjected to statistical analysis using such measures as the mean, mode and median. The answers provided in the questionnaire will be represented in a scale with scores 1-8 where:
1 = I do not drink alcohol 2 = once a year or less
3 = a few times a year 4 = about once a month
5 = a few times a month 6 = Once a year
7 = a few times a week 8 = daily
The scores of all respondents will then be determined for each response and tabulated for easy analysis. The mean score is then determined to indicate level of agreeableness to each item in the questionnaire. The scores are also represented in pie charts for each item in the questionnaire for further analysis and interpretation. These representations and analysis will be done separately for parents and children so as to attain the levels of both independent and dependent variables separately.
Measurement of variables
This section deals with how variables will be measured. The variables here are: parents’ heavy drinking and Children’s drinking behaviour. The relationship between these variables will be determined using the specific responses given by the respondents in the questionnaires. The responses of each respondent are coded with scores ranging from 1 to 8 where 1 indicates positive response and 8 indicate negative response. The mean of the whole sample size is then determined and if the mean will exceed 4 for both the parent’s drinking habit and the children’s drinking behaviour then it is concluded that children’s drinking behaviour increases with increased parental heavy drinking. If one of the variables will have a score of less than four while the other will have a score of more than four then there will be a negative relationship between parents’ heavy drinking and children’s drinking behaviour, i.e. increase in parents’ heavy drinking leads to increase in children’s drinking behaviour.
The research will consider ethical concerns on the participants of its survey. The researcher will ensure that the research is conducted in an ethically responsible manner. This includes ethically right language and methodology of research. The researcher will avoid implications on the psychological aspects of the respondents during the survey by being empathetic and rational. The paper will also encourage the participants on ethical issues. For instance, each respondent will be encouraged to abstain from alcohol, citing the negative effects of drinking.
Ethical considerations or implications
- Seeking consent: the researcher will obtain consent from the research participants (children and parents) and relevant authorities (the state and local authorities) before undertaking the research. This will ensure that the research is in line with legal requirements. It will also prompt a good cooperation from the research respondents.
- Being anonymous: The researcher will avoid naming participants and being subjective during the study. The questionnaires used will not involve the details of respondents such as name, locations and contact addresses. The researcher will also assure respondents that their confidentiality will be guarded. This ensures that confidentiality is upheld during the study.
- Maintaining confidentiality for the research participants: the researcher will also uphold dignity regarding to the confidentiality of the respondents. This intention will be announced to the respondents a few days prior to the research period so as to build their trust on the researcher and give information without fear of exposure.
- Avoiding harm to participants: the researcher will ensure that the participants are safe throughout the research process and that none of the participants is subjected to physical or emotional harm. Most of the respondents will fear being subjected to harm owing to the nature of the study which questions the drinking habits of the respondents. Some respondents may feel insecure since the research will question a critical behaviour of their lives. It is therefore important for the researcher to undertake the research in a way that no harm is implicated on the respondents and the respondents are assured of safety throughout the exercise.
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- Indicate your age bracket and gender by ticking in the boxes below.
15-18 years O
19-25 years O
Above 25 years O
- Tick the one of the boxes below each of the statement below to indicated your level of Agreement
- How often do you drink Alcohol
1 O 2 O 3 O 4 O 5 O 6 O 7 O 8 O
1 = I do not drink alcohol 2 = once a year or less
3 = a few times a year 4 = about once a month
5 = a few times a month 6 = Once a year
7 = a few times a week 8 = daily
- If you are a parent, how do you think your drinking habit or abstinence from drinking affects your child’s drinking behaviour?
- If you are a young person, does one or both of your parents take alcohol? How do you think your parent’s drinking habits affects your drinking behaviour?