Research type 
Year of report 

Summary of findings


Segmentation: Parents/Carers

Seven parent and carer segments were developed using cluster analysis based on seven key dimensions and a number of key behaviours.

Proactive and in Control: (16 per cent)

  • Tend to hold the most negative attitudes towards alcohol and youth drinking
  • Are the least likely to subscribe to the Continental model of introducing their child to alcohol gradually, instead thinking it is safer to say no until their child is 18
  • Tend to live in households with rules and routine, but are no more likely than other parents to have set their child rules about alcohol: perhaps because their children tend to be younger than average
  • They are, however, the most likely to feel that it is important to speak with their child about alcohol before it becomes an issue
  • This segment has the highest penetration of ethnic minorities, in particular Muslim parents
  • Are the most likely of all segments to be teetotal and they have the lowest levels of alcohol consumption

Reactive Avoiders (17 per cent)

  • Are the least likely to have spoken with their child about alcohol: perhaps because they are the least likely to feel comfortable doing so and do not like to talk about difficult topics before they become an issue
  • Are less likely to say that they have thought about what they would do if their child is not sensible with alcohol
  • Their children are slightly younger than average and are therefore less likely to have drunk alcohol, though also more likely to have drunk and been drunk without their parents knowing
  • The demographic profile is similar to the average, though they have a higher than average penetration of fathers

Stressed and Concerned (12 per cent)

  • Have very high levels of stress and low levels of self-confidence
  • Feel less comfortable than average discussing difficult subjects with their children, though they are more likely than average to have done so.
  • Are more likely than average to have discussed alcohol with their child, but discussed fewer topics and tend to have set fewer rules about drinking than other parents
  • Their children’s levels of drinking are on the face of it about average, but this may be because they are about average in terms of their ages
  • Those children who do drink tend to drink more heavily than average

Negative Role Models (15 per cent)

  • Tend to hold positive views about alcohol and in particular they feel negatively towards messages about alcohol
  • Are also less likely than average to agree that it is never right for young people to drink alcohol
  • Tend to have the highest levels of alcohol consumption
  • Have a fairly mid-market profile
  • Their children are more likely than average to have drunk alcohol or been drunk, and tend to drink fairly heavily and get drunk more frequently
  • Their children are more likely than others to get alcohol from their parents and drink at home

Strong Rejectors (10 per cent)

  • Hold similarly negative views of alcohol to the Proactive and in Control
  • However, they are less likely than the Proactive and in Control to have spoken with their child about alcohol, or to feel confident in doing so
  • Are the most likely (by a long way) to think that discussing issues like drinking would just put ideas into their child’s head
  • Like the Proactive and in Control, Strong Rejectors are also more likely to come from ethnic minorities
  • Are the most likely to come from poor households and poor areas
  • While their children are less likely than average to have ever had an alcoholic drink, they are the most likely to have concealed it from their parents

Risk Reducing Supervisors (6 per cent)

  • Appear to hold fairly positive attitudes to underage drinking, because these parents feel they have close control over their child’s drinking and by doing so can reduce the risks to their child
  • Are the segment joint most likely to have spoken with their child about alcohol and are more likely than average to have set their child rules about drinking
  • Their children appear to drink in more controlled circumstances (e.g. at home, drinking alcohol given to them by their parents), though they are the most likely to have been drunk
  • Are more upmarket than average and more likely than average to be fathers

Educating Liberals (25 per cent)

  • Tend to have liberal attitudes to alcohol and to young people drinking alcohol: especially when their child is at home and supervised
  • Are proactive in speaking with their child about alcohol at an early age and have discussed the risks with their child
  • Their children are more likely than average to have drunk alcohol, which may reflect the fact that they tend to be older, and while they are also more likely than average to have been drunk, this happens less frequently than for other segments

Children and young people segmentation

Seven clusters were developed for children and young people, using cluster analysis based on nine key dimensions and a number of key behaviours.

Balanced and Sensible (12 per cent)

  • A young segment, which is characterised by a fairly balanced and sensible relationship with alcohol, which may be because their parents have been proactive in having conversations with them about alcohol and have set clear boundaries for them
  • Around 1in 10 have tried alcohol, but few have ever been drunk and their drinking appears to be closely controlled by their parents

Not on the Radar (19 per cent)

  • A young segment which is characterised by being much less likely than average to have thought about alcohol and less likely to be exposed to the subject through seeing people drinking at home or through conversations with their parents
  • Have a broadly negative attitude towards young drinkers and are the least likely to have ever drunk alcohol themselves
  • Has the highest penetration of young people from ethnic minorities

Resilient Rejectors (14 per cent)

  • Have broadly negative views of alcohol and very few of them have ever tried alcohol, despite living in poorer households, poorer areas and with people who smoke or (they perceive) drink heavily
  • Are around average in terms of speaking with their parent about alcohol, though these conversations are more likely to have come about because they saw someone drunk or drinking in their home

Estranged and Inconsistent (8 per cent)

  • Are characterised by a less positive relationship with their parents and are amongst the least likely to have discussed alcohol with their parents
  • Feel that they have fewer rules or boundaries about drinking alcohol
  • Their views about alcohol are mixed, but they are significantly more likely than the other younger segments to have drunk alcohol and amongst drinkers they have the second highest levels of consumption
  • Their alcohol consumption is less likely than that of other younger segments to be in a controlled environment and they are the most likely to be drinking in a public place
  • Are also the most likely of the younger segments to have had more negative things happen to them after drinking

Informed Experimenters (18 per cent)

  • Are older and come from more positive environments
  • Are characterised by being the most likely to have had a conversation with their parent about drinking alcohol: these conversations tended to happen early, proactively, and to have discussed the risks to safety and health of drinking alcohol
  • Have a positive relationship with their parent, who has set clear boundaries from them in terms of setting rules about their drinking
  • While 9in 10 Informed Experimenters have ever drunk alcohol, their drinking is more moderate and moderated than the other segments, and they are less likely to drink to get drunk
  • Are more likely than average to have positive images of young people who drink alcohol, but are less positive about alcohol than the other older segments

Risk Taking Rebels (19 per cent)

  • An older segment which, though they have been spoken to about alcohol and set rules, is one of the heaviest drinking
  • Are spontaneous and like taking risks, and understand the risks of drinking alcohol, but still think it is cool
  • Are also the most likely to say that if their parents come down too hard on their drinking it will make them want to do it even more
  • Tend to come from more deprived households and single parent households, and their parents tend to be the heaviest drinkers

Uninformed Drinkers (11 per cent)

  • An older segment, they are the heaviest drinkers and the most likely to have been drunk or had negative things happen after drinking
  • Are the most likely to have taken illegal drugs
  • Are much less likely than the other segments to see the negative side of underage drinking: they are less likely than others to think that alcohol leads to trouble and none think that drinking makes young people vulnerable
  • Have received much less direction about alcohol from their parents and are less likely to have had conversations with parents or had rules set about drinking
  • Live in fairly unstructured households in average areas

Research objectives


The specific research objectives were:

  1. To validate understanding around young people and parents and alcohol
  2. To understand the relationship between attitudes and motivations associated with alcohol consumption behaviour for both children/young people and parents/carers
  3. Provide baseline data for KPIs in terms of attitudes and behaviour for future tracking during the lifetime of the programme
  4. To understand whether and how the attitudes and behaviours of children/young people and parents/carers are related within the same household



Alcohol misuse is a serious issue amongst children and young people and something that the Government is committed to reducing. In June 2008, the Government published a Youth Alcohol Action Plan, and the main aims of this plan were to:

  • Establish a national consensus on young people and drinking
  • Create a new offence of persistent possession of alcohol in a public place by a young person (under 18)
  • Work with the Chief Medical Officer to develop a set of guidelines regarding young people and alcohol
  • Develop a communications campaign for parents and young people
  • Work with the alcohol industry to continue to reduce underage sales
  • Reduce the level of alcohol consumption by those young people who do drink

In order to assist and inform this plan, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) commissioned a large-scale research study of parents and young people, to investigate attitudes and behaviours regarding alcohol.

Please note that this research was commissioned by the DCSF under the previous administration and is not necessarily representative of current government policy.

Quick summary


The scoping study which fed into this research suggested that parents and young people may be segmented into a number of groups based on their attitudes and behaviours. The study identified a number of potential groups which had been segmented on the following two key axes:

  1. Perceptions of risk and the extent to which the parent/carer (P&C) or child/young person (CYP) feels that the risk from drinking is real and relevant to them
  2. Whether they have a strategy in place to deal with alcohol (for P&C) or whether they have the confidence to deal with alcohol (CYP)

The aim of this research study was to segment parents and young people. The resulting segments were used to plan and monitor communication campaigns and to evaluate and refine key performance indicators (KPIs).

Audience Summary








Children and young people aged 10 to 17 (and their parents/carers)




The sample was drawn using random location sampling methods: following stratification by Government Office Region and IMD, parliamentary constituencies were selected, from which output areas were drawn. In total, 289 sampling points were selected and each sampling point consisted of 3 adjacent output areas.

Linked interviews for parents/carers and children and young people were conducted face to face, in home, using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). Parental interviews were conducted first, followed by the children/young person interviews. Interviewers were asked to try to ensure that there was some privacy for both parts of the interview to ensure that respondents felt able to answer as honestly as possible.

Quotas were set in each of the selected sampling points. Parent/carer quotas were set on age and gender of the child/young person and a minimum quota was set to ensure a minimum of 600 interviews with fathers/male carers and a representative number of working parents. Children and young people quotas were set on age and gender interlocked.

A total of 2,017 45-minute interviews were conducted with parents/carers and 2,017 30-minute interviews were conducted amongst children and young people

Data collection methodology


Sample size

  • 2,017 parents/carers
  • 2,017 children and young people

Fieldwork dates


12 August 2009 and 13 September 2009

Agree to publish





This report is classified as sensitive as it deals with vulnerable young people

Research agency


COI Number