In April, The NSMC launched a campaign in Hastings aimed at parents of teenage children. The campaign highlighted the negative impact alcohol can have on a teenager child’s brain development and ran with the slogan: Your child and alcohol. Think Again Now.

When we stated working with NHS Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group around local alcohol issues, we never anricipated the need to develop a campaign aimed at parents. We had, wrongly, assumed that young people were either purchasing alcohol from local retailers, or asking older siblings to buy it for them. However, when we did the formative research with 72 11-15 year olds, they told us that they mostly got their alcohol from their parents.

Based on this finding, we conducted further research, this time with local parents. They told us that they did give their children alcohol, but with the best intentions. They believed that this would teach their children to be more responsible drinkers, it was a rite of passage, and they also felt pressure from other parents to do so, as it was seen as the social norm.

“We all go through that stage of drinking. Its how we learn not to drink too much.”

“I guess I feel I need to. Like my son he gets alcohol of his best friends mum. She will phone me and say she is doing it and ask if its OK.”

International research shows us that these are in fact myths and that:

  • Young people are less likely to drink alcohol if their parents disapprove.
  • Parents underestimate their children's drinking and overestimate other parents' approval of student drinking.
  • Young people say they would prefer to get information about alcohol from their parents.

What was most clear was that the parents had no concept that what they were doing could be harmful and were, from a behavioural theory perspective, were in the pre-contemplation stage of the Stages of Change (Trans theoretical) model. Therefore, if we wanted to achieve behaviour change, we would have to rebuff some of the myths around young people and alcohol consumption!

We pre-tested various campaign images and messages with parents, but the only one that resonated was a hard-hitting message about how alcohol can affect young peoples brain development.

And so the Think Again Now campaign was born! We ran radio adverts, developed a website, placed posters in local retailers, engaged with local schools, and distributed leaflets through community events.

And the results? The campaign worked. When asked Did you know that our brain continues to develop until we are in our early 20s and alcohol can affect the development of a teenager’s brain?’, 39% answered ‘yes’ at baseline, compared to 59% at follow-up. Similarily, 81% of parents at baseline said their child drinks alcohol. At follow-up, this had reduced to 72%.

Although there is a lot of work still to do in the local area, this campaign has started moving parents in the right direction.