There are conflicting reports about the influence of parents drinking in front of children such as here, here and here.

For instance, the link from Drinkaware website below states that drinking moderately in front of your kids is a case of leading by example and therefore acceptable.

Yes, research shows that from a young age children learn about acceptable behaviour by observing and copying their parents, so when it comes to drinking, it really is a case of leading by example. What they see at home helps children think about how they’ll drink alcohol as an adult. So, just as children learn to walk and talk like their parents, they learn how to drink like them too. Source: Is it OK to drink in front of my children?.

The same Drinkaware website also suggests to hide your consumption in front of children.

“But, equally, parents should hide their own alcohol consumption from their kids. Setting a good example and demonstrating a moderate approach to drinking, while communicating the harmful effects of alcohol on children, is a good approach to alcohol education. Source: Does my drinking affect my child?

However, National Health service of UK warns that parents need to drink less in company of their kids as there is a connection between three factors of parental drinking, parenting style and the likelihood of children growing up to be alcoholics.

The report found that mothers who drank ‘always’ were more likely to have children who drank at hazardous levels in adulthood. The report found that 16-year-olds who perceived their mother to drink ‘always’ were 1.7 times more likely to drink hazardously themselves at the age of 34 than those who reported their mothers drank ‘sometimes’. The father’s drinking behaviour did not have any association with children’s later drinking levels. Source: Parents 'need to drink less' in front of their kids

Young people’s drinking behaviour is no exception and often emulates that of their parents, i.e., if adults drink more, so too do their children. Source: Influencing your child’s alcohol consumption.

So does parents drinking alcohol in front of children influence the child's behavior to become a future alcoholic and also is this assumption dependent on the amount and times of alcohol consumption in their presence?

  • 1
    This seems to assume that "drinking moderately" in the first source is comparable to "drinking 'always'" in the second source, and that seems unlikely to be true.
    – phoog
    Mar 17, 2017 at 4:48
  • @phoog-So you mean to say that there is minimal influence on the behavior of children when the parents drink in front of them i.e. drinking moderately equals no or less influence and drinking always equals more influence? Mar 17, 2017 at 5:30
  • I don't mean to say anything of the sort. I have no basis to form an opinion about the effect of drinking in front of children. I mean only to call into focus the fact that one study looks at the volume of drink and the other at the frequency. Furthermore, I suspect that those drinking frequently are more likely to be drinking more than "moderately." Therefore the studies aren't directly comparable. It's like comparing those who exercise by running at 10 km/h with those who exercise five days each week. It tells you nothing.
    – phoog
    Mar 17, 2017 at 12:39
  • The big question (which few studies address) is whether a responsible attitude to consuming alcohol is influenced by parents. Not all alcohol consumption is harmful and it isn't obvious that trying to stop children getting alcohol helps them learn a responsible attitude to using it. Moreover, many studies are heavily biased to one point of view before they start.
    – matt_black
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:31
  • The second Drinkaware quote in context sounds like a typo that was intended to be "shouldn't hide". "Demonstrating a moderate approach" is not compatible with "hiding" things, and the word "hide" has a connotation of "unreasonable", which is probably intended to contrast with the rest of the advice in that section and how it's presented.
    – Dan Getz
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: Research shows that drinking with parents was associated with more episodes of drunkenness for their children and drinking behavior of female children were more influenced by their mother’s parenting style than males.

Conclusion: Parenting style around alcohol use which included parental bond and specific parental rules regarding alcohol, had a strong influence on adolescent drinking behavior that extended into young adulthood (to 20 years from the data available). Whereas the previous review recommended strict rules, the more recent evidence is more nuanced and suggests that rules alongside a strong, caring parental bond is protective against alcohol use. Both a permissive attitude towards alcohol that may include drinking at home and an overprotective parenting style have been found to be associated with higher levels of alcohol use. A strong maternal bond, particularly for females offspring, may be protective against heavy alcohol drinking. Source: Parental Influence on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults

Also research evidence from a review of 22 studies shows that drinking with parents (DWP) might increase the risk for progression toward unsupervised drinking for their children.

There is strong evidence to support the general notion that the easier alcohol is to obtain, the more adolescents will drink. The consensus from the literature is that when parents provide alcohol to their children and drink with them, they increase their child’s risk of greater and more risky alcohol use behaviors over time. At this point, there is no research on how parental provision might contribute to the development of AUD. Source: Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?

First, allowing children to drink underage, even when supervised by the parent, is always associated with a greater likelihood of drinking during adolescence over time. Parents should understand this connection and avoid allowing their children to drink. Source: Providing Alcohol for Underage Youth: What Messages Should We Be Sending Parents?

The researchers say there is little research to support the notion that it is possible to “teach” children to drink alcohol responsibly. They write their review “suggests that by allowing alcohol use at a young age, parents might increase the risk for progression toward unsupervised drinking more rapidly than it would otherwise have been.” Allowing teens to drink may instill a sense of comfort in alcohol use, which could increase their tendency to drink, with or without their parents present. Source: Parents Teaching Teens “Responsible Drinking” is a Myth: Study

  • The dominant theme I took from reading the first reference was that most studies were not very reliable. Many ignore abstainer parents, for example, which somewhat biases the results in favour of observing the harms of drinking (if we don't know what abstainer's children do we don't know whether they ever develop responsible attitudes when born in an environment that is anti alcohol). And there are big social factors that many ignore. US data is derived in a very different environment than EU data where drinking is legal at a younger age, for example.
    – matt_black
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:28

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