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Mothers' Drinking "Shapes Kids' Future Habits"

By their mid-30s, people's drinking habits tend to echo those of their mothers, not their fathers, researchers say.

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By Valerie Tejeda

10/08/12

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Mothers, not fathers, primarily influence their children’s future drinking habits, a new study claims. Researchers from the UK's Demos policy think-tank examined the drinking patterns of 18,000 people across three decades. They found that 16-year-olds' drinking habits were mostly influenced by their peers, rather than their parents. But by the age of 34, a person's likelihood of being a binge drinker was found to line up with the amount they reported their mother drank as a child. Each step that a mother's reported drinking rose on a four point scale—never, sometimes, often or always—correlated with a 30% increase in the adult offspring's chances of binge drinking. “What we found really interesting was this delayed effect; the impact of what teenagers perceived about their mothers' drinking habits doesn't show an impact at the time, but decades later,” says Jonathan Birdwell, head of Demos' Citizens Program. The study found no correlation between fathers' drinking habits and those of their adult children. Researchers note that fathers were more likely to drink outside the home, while mothers were more likely to drink at home, and be seen by their children, which may account for their greater influence. Birdwell says that the relative "cultural acceptability" of male drinking might also partly explain why fathers' drinking had less influence. 

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