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Binge Drinking and Drug Taking as Part of Growing Up


It is hypothesised that growing up has an influence on children’s indulgence in binge drinking and drug taking. Thus, it is not coincidental that the issue of alcohol abuse has often attracted public attention. Binge drinking and drug abuse are also perceived to have serious health, social and economic ramifications that force governments and other non-governmental agencies to focus attention on their eradication. For instance, in 2009, the United Kingdom Government released guidelines on children alcohol consumption (Donaldson 2009).


As Donaldson observed, the guidelines were to play a significant role in identifying and addressing alcohol and other drinking-related problems. Based on the recommendations of the guidelines, children under the age of 15 were required to refrain from consuming alcohol completely. The author further indicated that parental guidance was necessary when children between the ages of 15 and 17 consumed alcohol. For this group of children, Donaldson indicated that the consumption of alcohol must be limited to once in a week. The above guidelines show that parenting has a role in influencing the direction that children take regarding alcohol. So, the question of transmission of alcohol abuse behaviour from parents to children emerges.

The policy recommendations by Donaldson followed the guidelines given by the Youth Alcohol Action Plan of 2008. According to Diment et al. (2007), the law regarding giving children alcohol while at home required amendment. Diment and peers observed that allowing children to drink was encouraging a culture of binge drinking. Put differently, Diment et al. (2007) pointed out that regulations on drinking at home revealed that growing up or parenting influenced drinking behaviour among children.

According to Smith and Foxcroft (2009), the family is the primary source of socialization in reference to drinking behaviour. Further, the authors found that family played a major role in influencing drinking behaviour by cultivating certain attitudes. As Smith and Foxcroft indicated, a child from a drinking background had a higher propensity to drink than a child from a non-drinking family.

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Statement of the Research Problem

There exist a significant body of literature on the association between parenting behaviour and binge drinking. For instance, Newburn and Shiner (2001) and Valentine et al. (2010) have studied the relationship between the two variables. However, as Valentine et al. (2010) found drinking behaviour was changing at a fast pace since the rate at which young children were becoming involved in drinking was alarming. Despite the significant contribution by the researchers on the topic, still, not much is known regarding the transmission of drinking behaviour from parents to children

Moreover, an extent to which families restrain children (14-17) from binge drinking is also unclear. Based on this finding, the proposed research seeks to establish whether binge drinking among children between the ages of 14 and 17 has a link to upbringing or parenting behaviour. Put differently, is there a relationship between children home experience and binge drinking?

Research Questions

The main research question of the study is to establish if binge drinking and drug taking are part of growing up. To answer the main question, specific questions are also explored. The questions include:

  1. Are alcohol and drug taking the part of growing up?
  2. What alternatives are in a social group environment?
  3. What are the motivations and the reasoning behind binge drinking and drug taking?
  4. Are these avenues (alcohol and drug taking) being used as a way to ‘fit in’?

Research Objectives

The main research objective of the study is to establish if binge drinking and drug taking are part of growing up. To achieve the main objective, four specific objectives are also considered. The objectives include:

  1. To establish whether alcohol and drug taking are part of growing up.
  2. To establish whether there are alternatives in social group environments.
  3. To establish the motivations and reasoning behind binge drinking and drug taking.
  4. To establish whether alcohol and drug taking are used as a way to ‘fit in’.

Preliminary Literature Review

Reviewing the literature is critical in understanding themes as well as trends on the topic. It should be noted that binge drinking and drug abuse are on the rise (Donaldson 2009). The problem puts societies under a strain as attempts are made to mitigate its negative effects. The problem of binge drinking is associated with parenting and overall growing up experiences.

Based on a review by Smith and Foxcroft (2009), parents believe that alcohol is affordable, and advertising of alcohol is on the increase than it was during their childhood days. Smith and Foxcroft compared recent environment to that of the 1980s. Based on their findings, the price of alcohol has fallen relative to family average earnings. Similarly, the levels of advertising have increased rapidly. The scholars observed that the home environment has, thus, facilitated an increase in alcohol drinking behaviour among adults and children.

Research by Valentine et al. (2010) found that young people are drinking alcohol at an earlier age as compared to previous generations. The state of drinking is worsened by unconcerned parents who condone underage drinking (Valentine et al., 2010). Further, the researchers found that the levels of parenting ambivalence to drinking had significantly increased over the last four decades. Similarly, the number of parents introducing children to alcohol drinking has increased over the recent past. Specifically, the researchers found that parents introduced alcohol drinking during family functions or yearly parties such as Christmas and New Year celebrations.

At present, parents encounter stressful lives attributable to many factors such as deteriorating environment, economic hardships and political upheavals among other factors. As Smith and Foxcroft (2009) found, one way that parents facing such problems adopted was alcohol consumption. The idea that alcohol is easily available and relatively cheap makes it a fall-back option whenever things do not work as anticipated.

Often, alcohol consumption is viewed as a legal way to escape from the stress in life. However, its negative effects on behaviour are rarely given the attention they deserve. Smith and Foxcroft (2009) point out that alcohol consumption has adverse effects on consumers as well as those around them. Specifically, Smith and Foxcroft upheld that children of drinkers were exposed to unbecoming behaviours.

Early studies such as the one done by Foxcroft and Lowe (1991) have concentrated on assessing alcohol drinkers, non-drinkers, and those who have quit drinking. The research by Foxcroft and Lowe (1991) examined the relationship between alcohol consumption and the locus of control. Based on the study findings, non-alcoholics were in a better position to take control of life issues such as children upbringing. The study also revealed that the locus of control for drinkers and quitters was external. This implies that alcoholics and those who had just quit drinking were not in control of their lives and those around them. The ability to control another person is derived from one’s ability to control him-/herself. Thus, an inability of alcoholics to control themselves eroded their capabilities of bringing up children in the right way, an aspect that leaves them exposed to dangers of abusing alcohol and other hard drugs.

There is a wide consensus that alcohol abuse influences the physiological processes of people (Haugland 2005). Moreover, alcoholism predisposes an individual to negligence. Thus, alcoholics are more likely to neglect their daily duties including the duty of parenting (Haugland 2005). Such forms of negligence have far-reaching consequences on the overall parenting process. Examining the influence of alcohol on the performance of everyday life gives a clearer picture regarding the influence that binge drinking has on parenting, and ultimately on alcohol abuse among the youth. In brief, alcohol abuse affects the manner in which parents discharge their responsibilities. As already observed, alcoholism blurs the vision of parenting, thus, alcohol drinking undermines the acceptable parenting culture, which exposes children from parent-abusing families to the problem of binge drinking.

Studies have shown that there is an indirect association between parental alcoholism and children’s negative life events. For example, the study by Newburn and Shiner (2001) demonstrated that drinking behaviour was linked to a surge of marital problems or conflicts between spouses. A child who grows in a conflicting environment is under immense pressure resulting from a bad environment. As Newburn and Shiner demonstrated, there is a significant relationship between an increase in a mother’s opinion about alcohol problems and a decrease in the mother’s quality of parenting. The quality of parenting is reflected in inconsistencies in discipline administration and stress levels.

Smith and Foxcroft (2009) affirm the findings of Newburn and Shiner (2001) following a study to assess the link between alcoholic behaviour and child upbringing. According to Smith and Foxcroft (2009), an increase in alcohol consumption among parents precipitated ineffective parenting because when one partner is an alcoholic, an element of marital discord emerges. However, the researchers observed that marital discord was not a reflection of parenting problems, instead, the presence of one alcoholic parent-led to maladjustment and behavioural problems among children. For instance, parents’ behaviour is likely to be offensive and abusive when they are heavy drinkers.

Moreover, alcoholic parents may flirt or commit criminal activities leading to grave marriage problems. A conflict of this nature is likely to undermine the parenting process, and undermine the development or growing of children. Children in these kinds of conflicts seek solace in alcohol leading to a culture of binge drinking. Based on the above account, the research question becomes, are binge drinking and drug taking the part of growing up?

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Research Methods

The proposed study intends to employ a mixed-method approach. The mixed-method approach combines both qualitative and quantitative research methods (Berg 2009). The study seeks information from a population useful in ascertaining reasons behind binge drinking. For instance, in the case of alcohol and drug abuse, it is possible to gauge the causes of the problem among teenagers and establish associations among other aspects such as the relationship between parental negligence and teenager indulgence in drug abuse and alcohol consumption.

In the current case, a mixed-methods approach is preferred because it allows a researcher to incorporate both numerical and text data into a study. For instance, in a bid to study the relationship between family upbringing and alcohol and drug abuse, employment of a mixed research approach allows a researcher to understand qualitative issues of family upbringing and quantitative aspects in regard to an association with alcohol and drug abuse. In such a research type, the qualitative or quantitative design would be deficient since it cannot achieve the same results as a mixed-methods approach.

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The research will rely on real-life situational questions with a view to assessing differences in perspectives and understanding. The approach will entail interviews, drink diaries and focus groups. Participants of the study will be organized based on age to allow for the establishment of any age-related peculiarities. Regarding drink diaries, the researcher intends to provide participants with diaries which are useful in recording their drinking and drug consumption activities. The diaries are expected to offer additional information about the participants relating to their social life, in regard to social frameworks and groupings. The diaries are constructed before being given out to participants.

In order to access optimum results, the researcher will extend rewards as an incentive for completion of the diaries. The approach also encompasses the use of focus groups. Focus groups are set up with the intention of getting information regarding experiences on the reasoning behind drug taking, alcohol indulgence, binge drinking and social activities; this information will be provided by the study participants. Information provided by the focused groups is also helpful in understanding the role of cultural norms and their influence on alcohol or drug taking behaviour among the youth.

The Target Group

The target group will comprise young people aged 14-17. These participants will be drawn from a school in Dundee. Different methods such as face-to-face interviews, diary keeping and focus groups discussions are considered for data collection. The researcher intends to recruit a socially diverse group of participants in order to increase the usefulness of the findings in terms of generalizability. Specifically, the study will recruit current students, school leavers, employed/unemployed people or those in further educational institutions. The recruited group will comprise abstainers with a view to obtaining a broader view regarding why some groups of individuals disprove drinking and drug consumption.

Recruiting Participants

In recruiting the study participants, the researcher intends to use advertisements and word of mouth. Moreover, an incentive to entice participants will be considered. Similarly, a Facebook page will be developed exclusively meant for recruitment. I intend to offer a prize to those who will complete the study. Putting posters at various points such as the Dundee Young Carers, Key to Change, The Corner, TCA – Dundee Young Peoples Services (Tayside Council on Alcohol) is also considered.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical concerns play a significant role in the whole research process. Despite the role played by ethics, the concept has many definitions that vary considerably. The variations are evident among researchers and across disciplines. When carrying out studies, a researcher needs to pay attention to ethical concerns since they bear on the research process heavily. In the current paper, the focus is on ethical considerations when conducting the research using a mixed-methods approach to study alcohol and drug abuse among teenagers. Since the proposed study requires sensitive information, ethical principles such as respect, informed consent, and anonymity of all participants must be respected.

The question of informed consent is also significant for this type of study. A researcher has a responsibility of informing the study subjects about immediate and long-term dangers or risks of participating in a study (Courser, Shamblen, Lavrakas, Collins & Ditterline, 2009). Put differently, participants of the study must understand the ramifications of taking part in the study. Since the proposed study involves teenagers, informed consent is to be obtained from their parents since the subjects are below 18, hence, immature to make informed choices.

In another way, the participants lack the capacity to understand the consequences of participating in such studies. The consent forms must also meet the voluntary requirement. This implies that the researcher is also required to pay attention to the motivational, cognitive and physiologic stages of the subjects.

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