Parents' Divorce, Disengagement Raises Kids Risk Of Binge Drinking

A new study shows that parents divorce may increase children's risk of binge drinking. But parenting styles may matter even more.

According to the Telegraph, a study of British children by the Demos thinktank reveals that kids whose parents divorce before they turn five are more likely to drink later in life. However, it's not just whether your parents are together that matters. Demos also studied the effects of different parenting styles, and found that sixteen-year-olds whose parents are "disengaged" — meaning they're "uninvolved with their children, and do not structure their activities or set standards for their behaviour" — are eight times as likely to binge-drink as teenagers, and twice as likely to continue doing so in their thirties. The best way for parents to prevent binge drinking, meanwhile, was a "tough love" approach, which Demos defines thus:

Parents falling into this category tend to expect that their children will conform to household rules and boundaries but that these will be set and negotiated within a context that encourages autonomy in the children's decision-making. Such parents have high standards but support their children warmly in adhering to them; in their enforcement of rules such parents are assertive without being aggressive.

Demos hasn't yet released its specific data on divorce. However, report author Jamie Bartlett tells the Telegraph,

Divorce won't make your child a drinker, but instability and stress around relationship breakdown takes its toll on parents and children. Difficult relationships and high levels of stress for parents with young children have been shown to affect children later on and their relationship with alcohol is no exception.

It seems that while divorce can have an effect on children, parents can mitigate this effect by maintaining loving relationships with their children — but being strict when necessary. Parents who become disengaged as a result of the stress of their divorce may increase their kids' risk of excessive drinking. But if they're able to maintain a tough love approach, they may be able to help their kids develop a healthy relationship to alcohol regardless of their separation.

Children Whose Parents Divorce 'More Likely' To Become Binge Drinkers [Telegraph]
Poor Parenting Increases Likelihood Of Binge Drinking At Ages 16 And 34 [Demos]

Image via Mihai Simonia/Shutterstock.com