Linwood Group Asks: Father's Day -- Celebrate or Hide Away?

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Is an alcohol-fuelled Father's Day really beneficial for family life asks the Linwood Group after survey reveals whisky as top Father's Day present.

Alcohol has economic and symbolic value. It functions as a symbol of earning power and social exchange and is significant as an expression of gender identity and position within society, peer groups and families.

The link between Father's Day and alcohol is inescapable. At this time of year, greetings card shelves groan with cards depicting foaming pints of ale and robust glasses of red wine, pushing the message that drinking is both a manly pursuit and an essential part of Father's Day celebrations.

It's a great time of year for drinks manufacturers, too. In the run-up to Father's Day, some £14 million is spent on spirit brands in the UK, with whisky the number one alcoholic gift for men over the age of 35, according to figures from industry giant Diageo.

But is an alcohol-fuelled Father's Day really beneficial for family life? Sue Allchurch, director of the Linwood Group, thinks not: "When you've seen first-hand the damage an alcoholic father does to himself and his family, then this link between alcohol and Father's Day takes on a more disturbing dimension," she says.

"The families of alcoholic fathers frequently experience disruption of household routine, economic hardship and emotional and physical abuse as a result of the father's drink problem -- these are hardly things to celebrate or to hold up as part of responsible fatherly behaviour," she says, adding that children of alcoholics are more likely to grow up to develop drinking problems of their own.

Unfortunately, the influence of societal norms means that even dads with the best intentions to protect, support and care for their families can run into trouble with alcohol.

A recent study by Alcohol Concern found that male problem drinking is largely fuelled by Western cultural values. "In societies where most people drink, it is especially difficult for men to be abstainers because it is an image linked to being weak," said Frank Soodeen of Alcohol Concern. "Alcohol has economic and symbolic value. It functions as a symbol of earning power and social exchange and is significant as an expression of gender identity and position within society, peer groups and families."

The same pressures can make it difficult for fathers who drink too much to admit to their families that they have a problem with alcohol, or even to themselves, says Allchurch. But families can do much to help, she says, and a key first step is to stop colluding in a father's drinking and to stop excusing and covering up for it.

Father's Day may be a good time to start, she suggests. "Avoid buying alcohol as a gift or even an alcohol-themed card. A strong family that takes positive action and supports the drinker can go a long way to getting them into rehab and show their true appreciation for him as a father".

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Sara Stewart
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