Survey Reveals That Drinking Among Parents Increased During the Pandemic – Parents Need to Know: Your Kids Are Watching

In trend data reaching back to 1991, youth between the ages of 13 and 17 report their parents have the strongest influence on their decisions to drink or not drink alcohol, with their influence increasing from 55% in 1991 to 65% in 2021. (Graphic: Business Wire)

ARLINGTON, Va.--()--Parents are drinking more at home and in front of their kids due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and some are even allowing kids to drink, too. These striking findings are included in a nationwide survey published by, a national nonprofit organization working to eliminate underage drinking through education and open conversations between children and their influencers, specifically their parents. April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, marking the ideal time to start these discussions.

Half of all parents (50%) report that their children have had more exposure to adults drinking in the home during the pandemic. This includes 23% of adults who said they drank more during lockdowns than they did before, and 21% who said they drank more at home instead of drinking in bars or restaurants. One in 6 adults (16%) said they drank in front of children more than they did before the pandemic, and 1 in 10 (10%) said their children had more exposure to alcohol in the home because they and the adults around them were participating in happy hours. Another 9% of parents say they became more lax with their kids in terms of underage alcohol consumption at home during the pandemic.

12% of those surveyed said they know of other parents who allowed their child to drink in the home during the pandemic.

It is every parent’s responsibility to have a positive impact on their child’s decisions about alcohol; they are the leading influence on their kids’ decisions to drink—or not to drink,” Erin Hildreth, vice president of communications, “For those parents who drink at home, we would encourage modeling responsible behaviors and using this as a teaching opportunity about responsible alcohol consumption by modeling responsible behaviors.” Some guidance on age-appropriate conversation starters include:

  • Start the conversations early; and practice ways to self-advocate
  • Talk about ways in which alcohol effects the developing brains and bodies of kids
  • Practice ways to say NO to underage drinking—and other risky behaviors
  • Talk about family values, including never riding in a car with a drunk or impaired driver
  • Talk about the fact that risky behaviors run together
  • Remind kids that drinking alcohol under the legal drinking age is against the law

The survey of 3,000 Americans, conducted Dec. 17-18, 2021, concluded that parental views on underage drinking have allowed minors to consume alcohol at a higher rate than before the pandemic. The survey also addressed some long-standing myths regarding underage drinking in America. For instance:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of American adults believe that being strict about alcohol may backfire and lead kids to rebel and drink more outside the home.
  • About half (49%) believe that allowing children to drink or to experiment with drinking at home with parents will “demystify” alcohol.

Exposure to alcohol in the home during the pandemic does provide an opportunity for parents to initiate conversations about underage drinking and the nature of alcohol consumption with their kids. In fact, parents have had the greatest influence over their children regarding alcohol use for the past three decades, from 1991 to 2021. According to longitudinal data from, an average of 62% of kids – teens included – are influenced most by their parents when it comes to drinking. In contrast, just 20% of those parents surveyed believe that they have the greatest influence on a young person’s underage drinking behaviors.

The Ask Listen Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix program, launched by almost two decades ago, offers resources for parents, videos and lesson plans for educators, and materials and games for kids for communicating the importance of underage drinking prevention. The program combines research with animated videos to demonstrate the science behind what alcohol does to the brain and body of developing children, as well as language to use to effectively communicate to kids. Ask Listen Learn also includes social and emotional learning (SEL) foundations such as navigating peer pressure, goal setting, decision making, and self-advocacy that are key elements in mental health awareness efforts taking place in schools across the country.

About Responsibility.Org is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and works with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empower adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi USA, Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; Campari Group; DIAGEO; Edrington, Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; Ole Smoky, LLC; Pernod Ricard USA; and William Grant & Sons. For 30 years, has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit

In 2003,, alongside a team of educators and organizations specializing in elementary and middle schoolers, developed Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix. Ask, Listen, Learn is a completely free digital underage drinking prevention program for kids ages 9-13 (grades 4-8) and their parents and educators with the goal to reduce underage drinking. The information provided throughout the program guides adults with ways to start communicating with kids about alcohol and the developing brain – and how to continue talking to them as part of a lifetime of conversations. Ask Listen Learn is the most widely distributed underage drinking program of its kind.

Survey Methodology: Responsibility.Org in collaboration with Breakthrough Research conducted a digital survey of 3,000 American adults, December 17-18, 2021. Results are representative of American adults in terms of age, race, gender, region, income, and education level. The margin of error is +/- 1.8% +at the 95% confidence level.


Erin Hildreth (202) 674-3071

Release Summary

Parents are drinking more at home and in front of their kids due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and some are even allowing kids to drink, too.


Erin Hildreth (202) 674-3071