‘They’re Like Little Police’: Australian Parents’ Perceptions of Their Children’s Awareness of Drinking During COVID-19
As a result of COVID-19 and associated lockdown restrictions, children may have been exposed to more home-based alcohol consumption and parents’ alcohol use practices. This paper explores Australian parents’ perceptions of their children’s awareness of alcohol use and their reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on children’s exposure and acquisition of alcohol-related knowledge.
In-depth interviews were undertaken with 30 parents and carers of children aged four to 12 years from across Australia. Participants described their family lives, the role of alcohol, any changes in alcohol and family dynamics experienced because of COVID-19 and their children’s exposure and knowledge of alcohol before and during their experience of COVID-19. Using social learning theory as a guiding framework, transcripts were analysed to identify relevant themes.
Pre-COVID-19 children were commonly thought to be aware of behavioural changes owing to alcohol consumption, made associations between people, beverages and activities and recognised boundaries around consumption. COVID-19 was suggested to have impacted the environments in which children were exposed and the types of modelling and practices they were exposed to. It was more common for participants to describe COVID-19 affecting other children’s learning and knowledge of alcohol, rather than their own.
Discussion and Conclusions
Participants were mindful of children’s knowledge and the role they played in modelling consumption practices prior to and during the COVID-19 lockdowns. There may be scope to use the insights provided here to support parents in modelling approaches and engaging with children about alcohol in ways that challenge or disrupt its prominence or acceptability.