7.5 million kids live with risks related to parents with alcohol-use disorders

February 23, 2012

One in 10 children younger than 18 years lives with a parent who has experienced an alcohol-use disorder in the past year, setting them up for subsequent biological, psychological, and environmental problems. There are a number of resources available to practitioners to help identify these children and to help them and their families.

One in 10 children younger than 18 years now lives with a parent who has experienced an alcohol-use disorder in the past year, which research shows places them at far greater risk for developing alcohol problems of their own along with other behavioral and psychological problems.

A new report shows that 7.5 million children, adolescents, and teens live in households where at least 1 parent abused alcohol in the past year-6.1 million of them living in 2-parent families and 1.4 million living in single-parent households, of which more than two-thirds are headed by single mothers.

The findings are based on the 2005-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people aged 12 years and older, that has become an important source of statistical information on substance abuse and behavioral health issues in the United States.

“The enormity of this public health problem goes well beyond these tragic numbers as studies have shown that the children of parents with untreated alcohol disorders are at far greater risk for developing alcohol and other problems later in their lives,” said Pamela S. Hyde, administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which released the study as part of its alcoholism awareness efforts.

There is an extensively documented relationship between parental substance abuse and a variety of subsequent developmental problems in their children, including behavioral, psychological, cognitive, or neuropsychological deficits. Children of alcoholics and drug-abusing parents are especially risk vulnerable for maladaptive behavior because they have combinations of many risk factors present in their lives, with the single most potent factor being their parent's substance-abusing behavior.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics provides information and resources for professionals to help these children and their families, including a guide that presents information and tools to help practitioners ask questions and intervene with patients and families.

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