Pressure to be ‘supermum’ is driving mothers to drink
Published 13/12/2011 | 08:02
SOME mothers are turning to alcohol to deal with the pressure of being "supermums", putting their children at risk of depression and anxiety, according to a new report.
Alcohol misuse within families is an "escalating concern", according to Turning Point, a charity providing services for people with complex issues, including drug and alcohol misuse and mental health problems.
In its new study, Bottling It Up: The Next Generation, the organisation warns that 2.6 million children in the UK are living with a parent who drinks at hazardous levels.
Between 2010 and 2011, 12,248 people used Turning Point's alcohol treatment services and nearly half (5,326) were parents, of whom more than a third (1,925) were mothers.
The average alcohol consumption of parents was 30 units per day - 24 for mothers and 33 for fathers.
This is the equivalent of 15 glasses or three bottles of wine or up to 15 pints of beer - almost 10 times recommended limits.
The report said "a key issue was that mothers often felt under pressure to be 'perfect' and that alcohol was a way of coping with the demands of motherhood.
"Some said a lack of support from their partners was a trigger for their drinking.
"Others were drinking at least three nights a week and consuming more than 70 units - the equivalent of nearly eight bottles of wine.
"Their drinking was often in secret when their children had gone to bed."
One 35-year-old mother said: "I was trying to be Superwoman and I was too stubborn to ask for help.
"I felt I had to be the best mother I could possibly be. I was having two bottles of white wine a night, then I switched to vodka because people wouldn't smell it on me.
"I'd only drink after I'd put (my son) to bed so on the outside I appeared to be functioning."
The report found that children's mental health could be affected by parental drinking, with some developing eating disorders, depression and even psychosis in adulthood.
Children living with affected parents are also more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age and are more likely to progress to problematic use, the report went on.
Of 100 parents surveyed, 28% said their drinking meant their children often either missed school or found it difficult to concentrate at school.
More than half (55%) believed it had led to increased anger, anxiety and depression in their children.
A separate poll of more than 1,000 people across the country found that almost a quarter of parents are concerned about their own drinking, on a scale from slightly to very concerned.
More than half (52%) had allowed their children to drink. Of these, 77% let their children drink under the age of 16.
A total of 6% allowed children aged 10 and under to drink alcohol.
Turning Point's director of substance misuse services, John Mallalieu, said: "In a climate where both services for treatment and for troubled families are being streamlined, it makes sense that alcohol services should be given the impetus to prioritise parents, or soon-to-be parents, into treatment.
"They should be helped to develop parental and coping skills so the problems they are experiencing with alcohol are not passed on to their children.
"Early intervention is key in preventing a new generation of children at risk of experiencing poor mental health, drug and alcohol addictions, truancy and worse.
"We must end the intergenerational cycle that their alcohol-misusing parents are leading them into by example."
Regional manager Darren Woodward, from Turning Point's substance misuse services, added: "Alcohol misuse is a hidden and growing problem which affects the whole family.
"When an adult has an alcohol problem, children suffer too.
"This can impact on how well they do at school, their job prospects and their mental health."
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "This report shows that Labour took their eye off the ball on tackling alcohol abuse during their 13 years in power.
"Their reckless policies, such as the decision to unleash a 24-hour drinking culture in our country, only made matters worse.
"Unlike the last Government, we have taken real action by imposing high taxes on super-strength beers and ciders and banning below-cost alcohol sales.
"Our alcohol strategy, which we will set out in the new year, will outline what further steps we are taking to tackle this growing problem."