10/19/2017 13:00 EDT | Updated 10/19/2017 13:00 EDT

Kids Are Embarrassed By Parents Who Drink: Study

Half of parents reported being tipsy in front of their child.

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Talk about sober second thought.

A new U.K. study reveals that children notice a change in their parents' behaviour if they've been drinking even a moderate amount, and can become worried, anxious, and embarrassed as a result.

The study, released this week by the Institute of Alcohol Studies in partnership with the Alcohol and Families Alliance and Alcohol Focus Scotland, is the first to show that even low-level parental drinking impacts families.

Binge drinking is on the rise

Parental drinking is often a heated, divisive topic. In September, a Toronto woman who organized a "Mommy Wine Festival" came under fire by experts who worried the event would normalize excessive drinking at a time when it is already on the rise in women.

While drinking and binge drinking are still more common in men, 56 per cent of women age 15 and over reported binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks in one sitting) in 2013 at least once in the previous year, compared to 44 per cent in 2004, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.

And parents can act as role models, passing on "risky drinking patterns" to their children, the report found.

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29 per cent of parents reported being drunk in front of their child.

Children who see their parents "tipsy" are less likely to see them as a positive role model, the new U.K. study found. And 18 per cent felt embarrassed by their parents' drinking, while 11 per cent felt worried, and 12 per cent said their parents paid less attention to them when they'd consumed even relatively low levels of alcohol.

"We too quickly dismiss parental drinking as harmless fun and relaxation, but this report shows that parents do not need to be regularly drinking large amount for their children to see a change in their behaviour and experience problems," Rt. Hon. Caroline Flint, a U.K. MP, said at an event marking the launch of the report.

Half of parents in the study reported being tipsy in front of their child, 29 per cent reported being drunk in front of their child, and 29 per cent thought it was OK as long as it didn't happen regularly.

The study drew on survey data from 1,000 parents and their children, focus groups, as well as a public inquiry of experts and practitioners.

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