Open Access Research article

Family time, parental behaviour model and the initiation of smoking and alcohol use by ten-year-old children: an epidemiological study in Kaunas, Lithuania

Asta Garmienė*, Nida Žemaitienė and Apolinaras Zaborskis

Author Affiliations

Department of Social Paediatrics, Institute of Biomedical Research, Kaunas University of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:287  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-287

Published: 23 November 2006



Family is considered to be the first and the most important child development and socialization bond. Nevertheless, parental behaviour model importance for the children, as well as family time for shared activity amount influence upon the child's health-related behaviour habit development has not been yet thoroughly examined. The aim of this paper is to indicate the advanced health-hazardous behaviour modelling possibilities in the families, as well as time spent for joint family activities, and to examine the importance of time spent for joint family activities for the smoking and alcohol use habit initiation among children.


This research was carried out in Kaunas, Lithuania, during the school year 2004–2005. The research population consisted of 369 fifth-grade schoolchildren (211 (57.2%) boys and 158 (42.8%) girls) and 565 parents: 323 (57.2%) mothers and 242 (48.2%) fathers. The response rate was 80.7% for children; 96.1% and 90.6% for mothers and fathers correspondingly.


Eating a meal together was the most frequent joint family activity, whereas visiting friends or relatives together, going for a walk, or playing sports were the most infrequent joint family activities. More than two thirds (81.5%) of parents (248 (77.0%) mothers and 207 (85.9%) fathers (p < 0.05)) reported frequenting alcohol furnished parties at least once a month. About half of the surveyed fathers (50.6%) together with one fifth of the mothers (19.9%) (p < 0.001) were smokers. More frequently than girls, boys reported having tried smoking (6.6% and 23.0% respectively; p < 0.001) as well as alcohol (31.16% and 40.1% respectively; p < 0.05). Child alcohol use was associated both with paternal alcohol use, and with the time, spent in joint family activities. For instance, boys were more prone to try alcohol, if their fathers frequented alcohol furnished parties, whereas girls were more prone to try alcohol, if family members spent less time together.


Joint family activity time deficit together with frequent parental examples of smoking and alcohol use underlie the development of alcohol and smoking addictions in children to some extent. The above-mentioned issues are suggested to be widely addressed in the comprehensive family health education programs.