Parental habits that affect kids in their childhood

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Parents who smoke, drink and eat excessively may be doing just as much damage to their kids as they are to themselves. In this article we will look at how habits children see during childhood can have potential serious follow-on effects in their adulthood.

Children are often influenced by their role models, quite often their parents and other family membersi. Their decisions are largely influenced by observations they make on the environment and behaviour by others around themi. Children who regularly witness smoking, excessive drinking and eating during their childhood are more likely to pick up similar habits in their adolescence and subsequently continue them during adulthoodii,iii,iv. We will look at some parental habits that can affect kids when they grow into their adulthood.

Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke are more at risk of respiratory illnesses.


According to Cancer Research UK, a child who sees a parent smoking is three times more likely to take up smoking when they are olderii. Studies found that it was parental behaviour with smoking rather than attitudes towards smoking that influences children the mostv. For example, a parent lecturing that smoking is bad and unacceptable while still smoking in front of their child, will be sending mixed messages.

Research conducted by Karl Hill from the University of Washington had similar findings: 12 year olds whose parents were smokers were more than two times as likely (than those with parents who didn't smoke) to begin smoking cigarettes during adolescence and early adulthoodv. Other influential factors were considered such as the level of family bonding and attachment, strictness, and whether the parents involved their children in their own smoking behaviour, for example, asking them to get or light their cigarettes for themv.

The effects of smoking do not just begin in adult life. Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke (passive smoking) during childhood and adolescence are more at risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia, and in the long-run, life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and strokevi. Recent Canadian studies also report that passive smoking near children can get them hooked on cigarettes in later life as a result of the high absorption of nicotine from exposure to cigarette smoke. The exposure to nicotine has the potential to trigger addiction in the brain at an early age before the children actually smokevii.

If a parent truly wants their child not to take up smoking in the future, it is important for them to stop or reduce their own smokingv so as not to send mixed messages to their child. The benefits of quitting smoking extend to reclaiming their own health as well as improving the health of their child.

Parents should set healthy eating habits for their kids from early childhood


Drinking alcohol is a normalised and accepted part of Australian society and cultureviii, and children see this from an early ageix. The attitudes and behaviours parents display towards alcohol have the ability to shape the child's drinking habits and perceptions of alcohol when they grow upix. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselvesiii. Having a healthy attitude towards alcohol can aid your child during adolescence in making the right decisions about drinking habits, such as only drinking occasionallyi.


Just as with smoking and drinking, the eating habits ingrained and seen in childhood can persist throughout their livesiv. The onus is primarily on parents to moderate portions and choose healthy food alternatives to junk food from early childhoodiv. Children with overweight parents may have misconceptions over what is and isn't healthy in relation to weight and weight gainiv. Likewise, some overweight parents may be less concerned that their children are overweight than parents who have a healthy weightx.

Ensuring healthy eating patterns is important in early childhood, as research shows that eating habits are already established by the age of 10iv.

Overweight or obese children are more likely to remain obese as adolescents and adults. An estimated 80% of obese adolescents will become obese adultsx. The number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, and one out of five children is considered overweight or obesex. The risk of diabetes and liver problems is increased in adulthood for obese children or adolescents, regardless of whether they are obese as adultsx.

A healthy childhood and positive influences from parents and other family members is important in ensuring your child's healthy development and growth. Moderation in drinking, eating and smoking can affect your child's future for the better.

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i DrinkWiseAustralia, How parents' alcohol consumption can affect their children,

ii Cancer Research UK, Smoking and cancer: Children and smoking,

iii American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2011, Children of Alcoholics,

iv Rochman, B., 2011, 'Our fattening habits may be set in childhood', Time,

v Science Daily, 2005, Children Whose Parents Smoked Are Twice As Likely To Begin Smoking Between 13 And 21,

vi Better Health Channel, 2013, Passive smoking, State Government of Victoria,

vii Concordia University, 2011, Preteens surrounded by smokers get hooked on nicotine,

viii DrinkWiseAustralia, Social pressures on drinking alcohol,

ix DrinkWiseAustralia, How your drinking habits could impact your young children?,

x Better Health Channel, 2013, Obesity in children, State Government of Victoria,