Alumni, Community and Student Engagement Initiatives

WHAT WE KNOW: SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND CHILDREN

Children of parents who are chemically dependent are prone to developing externalizing symptoms, such as attention problems, aggression, delinquency, and/or low academic performance.  Also prevalent among the children of parents who abuse drugs are manifestations of poor social and intellectual functioning. Several scholars have examined how genetic and environmental factors, such as parental attitudes, act as predictors of future drug and alcohol use in the children of substance abusing parents.

Related outcome studies have mainly focused on a child’s level of risk for becoming chemically dependent. These studies have found a significant relationship between parental alcohol/drug habits and the subsequent increase in adolescent use. Additionally, substance abuse in parents may influence the severity of drug dependence in children. However, despite the links between parental drug and/or alcohol use and children’s future use, Zucker, Wong, Putler, & Fitzgerald (2003) found that resilience in these children proved to be a protective factor that countered the risk of future drug and/or alcohol use.

Researchers have shown that the influence of parental attitudes on children’s drug seeking behaviors may be as important as current parental substance abuse. When parents discover that their children are using drugs and do not intervene, this dynamic facilitates continued drug use. These findings provide evidence that the interactions between children and their parents can impact future substance abuse. Researchers also found that the way children perceive their parents and their substance abuse may be correlated with their own future substance use.

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