Children may learn from an early age when it’s appropriate to drink and how many drinks are okay from watching all the adults in their lives, said a Reuters report earlier this year, quoting Dutch study.
Researchers asked 75 fathers and 83 mothers how common it would be for adults to drink in a range of situations like during a party, at work, while watching television or while driving.
Then, they asked 359 unrelated children, ages four to eight, in which situations they thought it was common or appropriate for adults to drink.
As children got older, they became increasingly aware of social norms surrounding alcohol consumption, researchers report in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. Familiarity with alcohol might make children more likely to start drinking earlier in life or lead to more frequent drinking, the study team notes.
“Kids model parental behavior,” said Richard Mattick of the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
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“Parents who drink in front of youngsters make drinking a norm,” Mattick, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.
Fathers drank more than mothers, the study found. Men consumed about 8.6 standardised alcohol units a week, compared with 4.4 for women. One unit contains 10 grams of ethanol, or pure alcohol, and might be equivalent to one to three drinks depending on the alcohol content in each beverage.
Parents most often said drinking was common at events like a party, Christmas dinner, restaurant dinner or barbeque.
Fewer parents found drinking common at everyday dinners, or while at a picnic or watching television. Drinking was least common while driving, reading, working or eating lunch, according to the parents.
Children, meanwhile, found drinking more common while watching television or partying.
Children found drinking uncommon while reading, eating lunch or working at an office.
The children also said adults drank more in common situations for alcohol consumption, which the study authors conclude means the children are learning appropriate drinking behaviour from observing adults.
Very few parents and children invited to participate did so, leaving a very small sample of participants whose views’ may not reflect what all Dutch families would say about alcohol consumption, the study team noted.