Parents who drink heavily report less positive engagement with their children

Summary: Parents who drink to excess are less involved with their children, a new study reports. Treatment of binge drinking by parents can improve family dynamics.

Font: Alcoholism Research Society

Parents who acknowledge binge drinking are less involved with their children, according to new research in several countries that have traditionally been understudied. Globally, men are increasingly involved in the development of children.

The last analysis, in Alcoholism: clinical and experimental researchexplores excessive parental drinking in relation to the quality of their parenting and suggests that preventing or treating binge drinking among parents can have broad benefits for families.

Previous studies around the world have pointed to the harms of problematic drinking by parents on family relationships and children’s development. Parental alcohol use disorder, depression, and marital satisfaction are known to be important in parenting.

Excessive alcohol consumption, which is linked to notions of masculinity, has been linked across cultures to more punitive parenting, child abuse and neglect, and intimate partner violence.

Little is known about how heavy drinking affects parents’ relationships with their children, including their level of commitment. For the new study, the researchers used a rare data set covering five low-income countries in Asia to explore the relationship between binge drinking and men’s involvement with their children.

For the first time, the study took into account the potential effects of childhood trauma on fathers and attitudes toward gender equality, two additional factors previously shown to influence men’s roles within families.

The researchers worked with data from a United Nations study, which covered 4,562 parents between the ages of 18 and 49 in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.

Participants completed questionnaires assessing the time they spent interacting with their children (eg, playing games or helping with homework), the frequency with which they drank to excess (six or more drinks on the same occasion), their own experiences of abuse as children and their attitudes toward gender norms (eg, the role of women in the home). The researchers used statistical analyzes to explore associations between these and other factors.

Overall, 50% of parents reported that they often or very often played or did activities with their children, while 24% talked often or very often with their children about personal matters. Gender equitable attitudes were generally linked to more engaged parenting. Self-reported binge drinking was most common in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, also the countries that reported the most traditional gender attitudes, and least common in Indonesia.

In general, the participants who reported more binge drinking also reported less parental involvement than those who were not inclined to binge drink. This effect was strongest in Cambodia.

This shows a man holding a bottle.
Previous studies around the world have pointed to the harms of problematic drinking by parents on family relationships and children’s development. The image is in the public domain.

It was not evident in China or Sri Lanka, where gender equity perspectives were linked to greater parental involvement regardless of heavy drinking. In general, older fathers reported greater involvement in their children’s lives than younger fathers. Parents’ childhood trauma did not affect their involvement as parents, except in Papua New Guinea.

The study adds to the evidence connecting problematic parental drinking to limitations in parenting and helps build a gendered understanding of binge drinking. The findings suggest that reducing binge drinking among parents may increase their positive family engagement, with benefits for women and children.

In addition, gender-transformative interventions that promote fathers’ engagement with their children can improve various outcomes for families and reduce men’s alcohol use. The data set was limited and the associations complex, which probably contributed to the subtlety and unevenness of the findings.

More research is needed exploring alcohol use and parenting, involving more countries and culturally informed behavioral measures.

See also

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About this research news about alcoholism and family

Author: press office
Font: Alcoholism Research Society
Contact: Press Office – Alcoholism Research Society
Image: The image is in the public domain.

original research: Open access.
The relationship between parental binge drinking and parental involvement in five Asia-Pacific countries: a meta-analysis of individual participant data” by Anne-Marie Laslett et al. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research


The relationship between parental binge drinking and parental involvement in five Asia-Pacific countries: a meta-analysis of individual participant data


This study aims to increase understanding of the relationship between binge drinking (HED) and parental involvement in parenting in five countries. The potential moderating effect of fathers’ childhood trauma experiences is also studied, controlling for possible confounding of the HED effect by father’s attitudes toward gender equality, father’s age, and father’s education.


Data from the United Nations Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence (UNMCS) survey data of 4,562 fathers aged 18-49 from Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Sri Lanka were used to assess the relationship between parental involvement (eg, helping children with their homework) and self-reported HED of more than 6 drinks on one occasion versus no HED and abstention. The moderating effects of a 13-item parental childhood trauma scale (FCT) were tested and analyzes adjusted for gender unequal attitudes using the Gender Equitable Men scale score. Adjusted bivariate individual participant meta-analyses were used to determine effect estimates for each site and across sites.


Parental HED was associated with less positive parental involvement after adjusting for equity attitudes for gender, FCT, age, and education. No global interaction between HED and FCT was identified. Gender-equitable attitudes were associated with parental involvement in some countries, but not overall (p = 0.07).


Heavy episodic drinking was associated with reduced positive parental involvement. These findings suggest that interventions to increase parental involvement in parenting should include targeted reductions in parental HED. Structural barriers to parental involvement should be considered along with HED in future studies on parental involvement with their children.

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