British family life link to drink

May 5, 1995

The absence of loving family relationships may be driving English teenagers to drink.

A comparative study of family life and the drinking behaviour of 11 to 16-year-olds in three European countries found English adolescents reported heavier alcohol consumption than their French or Spanish counterparts.

The continental youngsters also felt they had more parental support and warmth in the family.

"The research suggests adolescent drinking may to some extent be influenced by perceptions of family life and not so much by peer influence," said psychologist Geoff Lowe from Hull University.

Nearly 7,000 adolescents were surveyed by Dr Lowe and David Foxcroft from Portsmouth University, Jacques Weill of the Institute de Recherches Scientifiques sur les Boissons in Paris, and Javier Alvarez of the University of Valladolid.

"English pupils reported more parental drinking and more lenient parental attitudes than did French and Spanish pupils," said Dr Lowe. "In a family where people are willing to talk, this is helpful in preventing or stopping adolescents getting into heavy drinking. The less the control and the warmth perceived, the more likely the adolescents are to drink more, particularly boys."

Dr Lowe speculated the effect was less pronounced in girls because they mature quicker. He believes the findings could be helped to target anti-drinking advice more effectively.

Dr Weill was surprised to find that alcohol consumption among French youth had doubled compared to ten years ago. But it was still less than the English drank.

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