Running Head: PARENTAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Parental Substance Abuse and Effects on Children
The topic that I am studying deals with parental substance abuse and its effects on children. I believe that parental substance abuse has a negative effect on the lives of their children.
The first article studied, Life Events of Adolescents in Relation to Personal and Parental Substance Abuse, relates to my topic by showing the negative life events associated with parental substance abuse. These life events are shown to be more undesirable and occur more frequently than with children with non-substance-abusing parents. This supports my topic by showing negative effects to parental substance abuse.
The second article studied, Association of Adolescent Physical and Emotional Health with Perceived Severity of Parental Substance Abuse, relates to my topic by showing the physical and emotional effects of parental substance abuse. There is a negative effect on mental and physical health to adolescents that have substance abusing parents. There is an increase in physical health problems such as asthma and mental health problems such as eating disorders.
The third article studied, Parental Substance Abuse and the Development of
Children in Family Foster Care, relates to my topic by showing how placing a child into foster care to get away from a substance abusing parent can have positive effects on the child. There are still some negative effects of parental substance abuse in relation to cognitive skills and behavioral characteristics.
The first article, Life Events of Adolescents in Relation to Personal and Parental Substance Abuse, the authors compare life events of adolescents and how it relates to “their own and their parents’ alcohol and/or drug use” (Brown, 1989). The variables used in the study were life events, drug and/or alcohol use of adolescents, and drug and/or alcohol use of parents. One hundred and thirty-eight adolescents participated in the study. Sixty-two of the 138 participants were substance abusers. That particular group reported more negative life events than of those of non-abusing adolescents (Brown, 484).
In previous studies, “Pandina and Schuele found that higher substance abuse use involvement scores were associated with more negative life events among adolescents” (Brown, 484). Other researchers used the Life Event Record for Adolescents to examine the relation between life events preceding substance abuse. In other studies it was found that “drug dependent adolescents acknowledged significantly more stressful life events than did a group of normal adolescents” (Brown, 484). This is an example of how parental substance abuse can have a negative impact on children.
Psychosocial stress, emotional, and health problems are all related to parental substance abuse. Since an adolescent cannot control their parents’ substance abuse, this can increase the incidence of stressful events occurring because there are usually very negative consequences for substance abuse.
Three main questions were addressed in this study: “1) Is there a higher incidence of life events among adolescents in treatment for substance abuse among demographically comparable non-abusers? 2) Is exposure to substance abusing parents associated with elevated levels of undesirable life events? And 3) Does the type of life events experienced by adolescents vary with personal and parental substance abuse patterns?” (Brown, 485). There were a relatively equal number of non-abusing adolescents with substance-abusing parents to non-substance-abusing parents and non-abusing adolescents used in the study. The occupations of the parents varied greatly from unemployed to professionals. “Sixty-three percent of the parents were married and 24% were divorced” (Brown, 485).
“The 39-item Life Events Checklist was used in the study to measure the incidence; subjectively assessed desirability, and type of life events adolescents experienced in the preceding year” (Brown, 485). Adolescents and parents completed a separate interview and several questionnaires. To ensure confidentiality, different interviewers were used. “Group scores for desirability of the events were then tested to determine whether having a substance abusing parent was associated with more stress” (Brown, 486).
The results of the study concluded that adolescents that have substance-abusing parents experienced more family problems than did their peers with non-substance-abusing parents. One interesting finding is that non-abusing adolescents with substance abusing parents reported a higher incidence of emotional distress events. “Specifically, a larger portion of stress in non-abusing adolescents with substance-abusing parents may be independent of teen functioning, more chronic, and less controllable” (Brown, 488). Adolescents with substance abusing parents who do not abuse drugs tend to have more stress that their peers who do not have substance-abusing parents.
The second article related to my topic is Association of Adolescent Physical and Emotional Health with Perceived Severity of Parental Substance Abuse. The purpose of the study in this article is the relation between adolescent health and parental substance abuse. The variables used in the study were adolescent health, including physical complaints, mood, and social adjustment. Another variable used was the severity of parental substance abuse (Gance-Cleveland, Mays, and Steffen, 2008).
According to researchers Eiden, Edwards, and Leonard (2008) in the article Association of Adolescent Physical and Emotional Health with Perceived Severity of Parental Substance Abuse, substance abuse can lead to impaired child-parent relationships and inconsistent discipline. There are more physical problems associated with parental substance abuse. This can include asthma, headaches, and abdominal pain. Emotional and psychiatric disorders such as substance abuse and eating disorders are more common among children of substance-abusing parents. Children of substance abusers (COSA) are also more likely to have behavioral problems (Gance-Cleveland et al., 2008). Self-report measures are used to identify children of substance abusers that are more prone to mental health conditions. According to Gance-Cleveland et al. (2008) the Children of Alcoholics Screening Test (CAST) examines a wide range of experiences of children who are living with a substance abusing parent. All of the participants in the study were high school students located in the Western part of the United States. Each participant had one or more family members with a substance abuse. The students took a modified CAST test. The test was modified to include all substance abuse and not just alcohol since the original test is used just to indentify children who live with an alcoholic parent. The participants were divided into three groups. This was based on their CAST score. “The low severity group (n=11) had scores ranging from 0 to 5. The moderate-severity group (n=35) had scores ranging from 6 to 15. The high-severity group (n=75) had scores ranging from 16 to 30” (Gance-Cleveland et al., 19). Participants in this group also had more physical symptoms than those of other groups. The results also show that participants in the high CAST group had more negative mood and participants in the low CAST group had more positive moods. According to Gance-Cleveland et al. (2008), “The results suggest that as the perceived severity of substance abuse in the family increases, the negative consequences on adolescent development increase and are manifested in physical symptoms and negative mood (22)”.
The third article on my topic, Parental Substance Abuse and the Development of Children in Family Foster Care, the author wanted to determine the impact that parental substance abuse has on children. The authors did this by examining the cognitive skills and behavior ratings of 268 school-age children placed in family foster care (McNichol and Tash, 2001). The variables used in this study are cognitive skills and behavior ratings. When the children were placed into family foster care, the group of children overall had low average cognitive skills.
Children with parents that are substance abusers face a wide range of suffering. According to McNichol and Tash (2001), it “can range from a lack of parental attention to loss of home and family.” In this study, children’s verbal and nonverbal skills and behavioral characteristics were analyzed while the children were in foster care. The children’s verbal and non-verbal skills were then measured and were then related to factors such as parental substance abuse, gender, and age at placement. Verbal and non-verbal skills were measured throughout the child’s time in foster care. The measures were taken from assessments provided by credible institutions or were court-appointed. Determination of parental substance abuse was made from referral information and case notes (McNichol and Tash, 2001). Sixty-six percent of the children in foster care in this study came from families with parental substance abuse. The mean age for these participants was 6.19 years and the average length of stay in foster care was 25.32 months. Girls were more likely to be returned to their birth families (McNichols and Tash, 2001).
The children in the study did not have a strong score in cognitive functioning. Although the children did improve when placed in foster care it was still not overall a strong score. According to McNichol and Tash (2001), “the children are delayed not only in verbal development (which may be thought to be related to lack of stimulation from their home environment) but also in performance or “nonverbal” development.” Because of this, these children have an increased risk of academic delays and learning disabilities (McNichol and Tash, 2001). McNichol and Tash (2001) believe that “awareness of the impact of parental substance abuse on the child and on the course of treatment for the child and the family will put essential treatments in a primary position (250).”
In the article, Children of mothers with histories of substance abuse, mental illness, and trauma, there is an increased risk for behavioral problems and substance abuse in children who have substance abusing parents. Children experience multiple stress factors that affect their growth and development. The sample consisted of 253 women who had a child aged 5 to 10 years old, had some type of weekly contact with their child, and either spoke Spanish or English as their primary language. The children were exposed to two different treatment conditions. One group was an intervention group, and the other group was the comparison group (VanDeMark, 449). “The first baseline interview gathered information from the parent about the child such as demographics, educational history, current custody status, current living situation, child abuse history, involvement with legal system and child welfare system, and substance abuse” (VanDeMark, 450). “Children enrolled in the study were also confronted with many physical, behavioral, and emotional problems, with parents reporting that 31.2% of the children were facing recurring physical health problems, 67.5% were experiencing emotional or behavioral problems, and 6.6% were taking prescription medicines for emotional and behavioral problems. A number of children had also experienced abuse, with parents reporting that 10.4% had experienced physical abuse and 6.5% had experienced’ sexual abuse”(VanDeMark, 452).
In the article, Narratives of methamphetamine abuse: a qualitative exploration of social, psychological, and emotional experiences, results from the study show that drug initiation emerges from parental drug abuse. Participants were methamphetamine abusers who used the drug at least three days a week. The participants were given natural history interviews, a drug test, and a qualitative interview. The majority of the respondents reported parental drug abuse Respondents also mention entering gangs, foster or group homes, and mental institutes during adolescence” (Brecht, 350). The participants report joining other peer groups during adolescence to fill the void they had with their birth family. The respondents claim to try to hide their drug abuse from their children, but they also claim that they were aware of their parent’s drug abuse during their childhood and their parents’ were unaware that they knew. Denial of the persons’ drug abuse was the main reason for some participants not to try to get treatment for their addiction (Brecht, 361).
In the article, Parental illicit drug use and family Life: Reports from those
who sought help, family histories of abuse and neglect are common among persons with substance addictions” (Cattapan, 77). The main purpose of this study is to examine the origins of substance abuse and how it impacts the users’ children. The participants were 15 parents that were recruited from their drug or alcohol program. There were two subject groups; the post-treatment (PT) group and the in-treatment (IT) group. The post-treatment group was used for a comparison as to how their lives changed after treatment. Each parent was interviewed using a semi-structured schedule (SSI) to see how each parent perceived the question (Cattapan, 78). The authors explored four family domains: “the perceived impact of the family of origin, self perception, the impact of parental illicit substance use on the family environment, and the impact of parental illicit drug use on children” (Cattapan, 79). The majority of the participants had a history of addiction and drug abuse in their family. Results show that there is a high correlation to children with drug abusing parents and their own drug abuse. The results of the study concluded that “when parents prioritize drug use ahead of parenting, they expose their children to danger, pseudo-maturity, drug use, and, at the very least, living in a destabilized household with irregular routines” (Cattapan, 85).
Parental substance abuse overall has a negative effect on their children. There is an increased risk of physical health problems, behavioral and mood disorders, stressful life events, and substance abuse.
Brown, S.A. (1989). Life Events of Adolescents in Relation to Personal and Parental
Substance Abuse. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 484-489.
Cattapan, O., & Grimwade, J., (2008). Parent Illicit Drug Use and Family Life: Reports
From Those who Sought Help. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family
Therapy, 29, 77-87.
Gance-Cleveland, B., Mays, M. Z., and Steffen A. (2008). Association of Adolescent
Physical and Emotional Health with Perceived Severity of Parental Substance
Abuse. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 13, 15-25.
McNichol, T., & Tash, C. (2001). Parental substance abuse and the development of
children in family foster care. Child Welfare, 80, 239-255.
O’Brien, A., Brecht, M., & Casey, C. (2008). Narratives of methamphetamine abuse: a
qualitative exploration of social, psychological, and emotional experiences.
Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 8, 343-366.
VanDeMark, R., Russell A., O’Keefe, M., Finkelstein, M., Noether, C. & Gample, J.
(2005). Children of Mothers with Histories of Substance Abuse, Mental Illness,
And Trauma. Journal of Community Psychology,33, 445-459.