Bad parenting is to blame for much of the binge-drinking culture that has gripped a stubborn minority of Britain's young people, a new report claims.
The think-tank Demos claims that parenting style is one of the most important influences on whether children develop an "unhealthy relationship" with alcohol.
In a study of more than 30,000 children, the organisation concludes that "tough love" parenting, combining consistent warmth and discipline, is the most effective way to prevent children developing bad drinking habits from childhood right into their mid-thirties.
Demos claims parents should ensure children are shown warmth during the early years, then properly disciplined and supervised as they get older – and that access to alcohol at home is restricted. Ministers will face calls to improve enforcement of under-age drinking laws and to invest in schemes designed to teach children – and adults – about sensible drinking. Demos also claims that the six-week summer holiday should be spread throughout the year as the long break multiplies "opportunities to engage in risky behaviour like binge drinking".
The report's author, Jamie Bartlett, said: "While levels of binge drinking have fallen for five years running, there is a minority of extreme, publicly visible, drinkers. No matter how high minimum pricing on alcohol is, there will be a hardcore of binge drinkers who will find a way to pay for it.
"The enduring impact of parenting on a child's future relationship with alcohol cannot be ignored. This is good for parents: those difficult moments of enforcing tough rules really do make a difference, even if it doesn't always feel like that at the time."
The report, Under the Influence, found that high levels of parental attachment when a child is under five significantly reduce the chances the child will drink excessively. However, bad parenting at the age of 10 makes the child twice as likely to be drinking excessively by the time they are 34.
The study, published today, also concluded that a 16-year-old is over eight times more likely to drink excessively if they have been subjected to bad parenting – and they will be twice as likely to engage in bouts of binge-drinking when they are 34.