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Research shows parents are less risky drinkers, but 700,000 children still exposed to problem drinking

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Date Published:
6 Nov 2010

While Australian parents are less likely to drink at risky levels than the rest of the population, more than 700,000 Australian children live in households where parents engage in chronic heavy drinking or binge drinking, according to research presented at a major drug and alcohol conference in Canberra today.

Speaking at the 2010 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) conference, study co-author Dr Lucy Burns from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) said it was encouraging that parenthood seemed to impact positively on people’s drinking behaviours.

“Parental modelling of responsible drinking behaviour plays an important part in shaping children’s attitudes to alcohol and reduces the likelihood they will start drinking early or develop problem drinking behaviours,” Dr Burns said.

“While most parents are setting a good example for their children, the bad news is that a considerable number of parents appear to have serious alcohol misuse problems that are like to have a lasting negative impact on their children.

“The damage might be direct and immediate through family conflict, violence or parents not being able to care properly for their children, or there might be long-term consequences from children seeing it as normal to be intoxicated or to drink in large quantities or for prolonged periods.

“While the renewed debate about raising the NSW drinking age to 21 is welcome, it’s just a band-aid measure if young people have spent their formative years living with parents who drink at harmful levels on a regular basis,” she said.

The NDARC research analysed data from the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and found 24 per cent of parents, or approximately 1.4 million people, reported heavy drinking behaviour compared with 27 per cent of those without dependent children.

Monthly binge drinking was reported by 21 per cent of parents (approx 1.2 million people) compared to 24 per cent of non-parents, while 12 percent of parents (710,000) reported binge drinking weekly, compared to 15 per cent of non-parents.

Dr Burns is speaking at a symposium on Substance Use and Parenting at 2.15pm on Monday 29 November at the 2010 APSAD Conference (29 Nov-1 Dec), which brings together 500 delegates and 160 experts on alcohol and other drugs.

Issued on behalf of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs by Moore Public Relations. Visit www.apsadconference.com.au.

For further information and interviews with Dr Burns or other presenters, please contact

Carol Moore: 02 9560 2826, 0402 382 363, carolmoore@moorepr.com.au; or

Mardi Chapman: 07 5539 5050, 0466 805 735, mardi.chapman@hotmail.com