Some 6.1 million children live in two-parent households where one or both parents suffered from alcohol abuse. The remaining 1.4 million lived in a single-parent home where the adult had a drinking problem.
The study was conducted between 2005 and 2010 and its details were published to coincide with Children of Alcoholics Week, which ends on February 18. (Source: http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/1202151415.aspx)
The following research has been provided to The Mama Bear Effect on behalf of a fellow child abuse prevention advocate.
**What are the effects on children of alcoholics?**
Role-playing as a coping mechanism
- The “hero” is often the oldest child who serves as a surrogate parent. The child is typically an overachiever and overcompensates for their family’s inadequacies by trying to be “good” all the time.
- Some children become the “scapegoat,” allowing all of their family’s anger and frustration about their dysfunctional circumstances to be focused on them.
- A child who assumes the role of the “mascot” is the family clown who brings comic relief to a stressful family situation. Their charming personality will entertain others and gives the impression that stress is not a problem.
- The “lost child” is so fearful of causing disruptions that they try to blend into the background. By living in a fantasy world where life appears normal; they can experience hopes, dreams, and wishes that are nonexistent in their real world.
The long-term effects on children
The link between parents drinking alcohol and their children suffering abuse is unmistakable. More than 76 million people worldwide abuse alcohol, explains GreenFacts.org. Fourteen million of them live in the USA and 6.6 million American children grow up in alcoholic households, according to Alcohol-Information.com. More than a million children are victims of child abuse each year, and alcohol is a major factor in nine of every ten cases. Two in five abusive parents are alcoholics. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/240851-alcohol-child-abuse/#ixzz2dm88Saob
The term "alcoholism" refers to a disease known as alcohol dependence syndrome, the most severe stage of a group of drinking problems which begins with binge drinking and alcohol abuse. There are two types of alcoholics: those who have anti social and pleasure-seeking tendencies, and those who are anxiety-ridden- people who are able to go without drinking for long periods of time but are unable to control themselves once they start. Binge drinking is another form of alcohol abuse. Frequent binge drinking or getting severely drunk more than twice is classed as alcohol misuse. Alcoholism is characterised by an increased tolerance of and physical dependence on alcohol, affecting an individual's ability to control alcohol consumption safely. These characteristics are believed to play a role in impeding an alcoholic's ability to stop drinking. Alcoholism can have adverse effects on mental health, causing psychiatric disorders and increasing the risk of suicide. The onset of depression is a common symptom.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as the amount of alcohol leading to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08, which, for most adults, would be reached by consuming five drinks for men or four for women over a 2-hour period.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], men may be at risk for alcohol-related problems if their alcohol consumption exceeds 14 standard drinks per week or 4 drinks per day, and women may be at risk if they have more than 7 standard drinks per week or 3 drinks per day. (A standard drink is defined as one 12-ounce bottle of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.)
Strong links between parental alcohol abuse and child maltreatment have been found across Australia, with child protection agencies reporting alcohol abuse as one of the top contributors in child protection cases. Although Australian child protection services do not regularly provide data on parental characteristics, available information shows excessive alcohol consumption is involved in child maltreatment in up to as many as 77% of cases.
Research indicates that binge drinking and/or long-term alcohol abuse or dependence can produce psychological and behavioural changes, and as such, excessive alcohol use has the potential to affect the quality of parenting a child receives.
If a parent is unable to protect or care for him or herself either during binge drinking sessions or as a result of cumulative harmful drinking behaviour, then their ability to protect, care or provide for children may also be diminished.
Child maltreatment refers to behaviour by parents, caregivers or others that is outside the norms of conduct and involves a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young person, including the neglect of young person's basic needs.
Several studies among children and adolescents who had experienced child abuse found that externalizing and antisocial behaviors (e.g., aggression, violence, hyperactivity, and delinquency) can be a consequence of childhood victimization (see Miller et al. 1997; Widom 1989, 1997). In turn, persistent externalizing and anti-social behaviors are strong predictors of AOD use. To explain this observation, researchers have speculated that children or adolescents exhibiting such oppositional and delinquent behaviors may frequently become involved in deviant peer groups that also promote AOD use. The temporal sequence of these hypothesized relationships needs further examination, however.
The relationship between childhood victimization, antisocial behavior, and adult alcohol problems may apply particularly to victims of child abuse with family histories of alcoholism. Research shows that children of alcoholic parents are at increased risk for alcohol problems themselves (Kendler and Prescott 1997) and that in many cases, the risk is mediated by genetic rather than environmental influences (Prescott et al. 1999).
Researchers have identified several types of alcoholism, one of which is characterized by high levels of antisocial behavior that frequently begins manifesting during adolescence. Children whose parents have this type of alcoholism may be particularly likely to be abused during childhood. In addition, those children are at increased risk for antisocial behavior and subsequent alcohol problems themselves, both because of a genetic predisposition and because of the experience of child abuse. There-fore, future studies of the link between child abuse and later alcohol abuse need to address the potentially confounding effects of a genetic predisposition for alcohol problems (Widom 1993).
Post traumatic stress disorder
PTSD is caused by a person’s experience of an extremely stressful situation, such as threatened or actual violence toward the person or toward someone close to that person. Symptoms of PTSD include persistent recollections (e.g., dreams) of the trauma, avoidance of any stimuli (e.g., places or people) associated with the trauma, and persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g., hypervigilance). PTSD is a relatively common consequence of physical or sexual child abuse (Miller et al. 1997; Widom 1999), and researchers have begun to investigate a possible link between child abuse, PTSD, and adult alcohol problems, particularly among women who previously had experienced CSA. For example, one study found that the prevalence of two or more alcohol problems was significantly higher among women who had been victimized and experienced PTSD symptoms than among women who had not been victimized or who had been victimized but did not experience PTSD symptoms (see Miller et al. 1997).
In another study, Epstein and colleagues (1998) investigated the link between childhood rape, PTSD, and lifetime alcohol use in adult women. The study found that women with a history of childhood rape had twice as many PTSD symptoms as did women without such a history. Furthermore, childhood rape victims had significantly more alcohol symptoms than did non-victims. Finally, childhood rape victims with PTSD symptoms had twice as many alcohol-related symptoms as did victims without PTSD symptoms. These authors suggest that PTSD may be one of the mediators between childhood rape and alcohol use. For example, people experiencing PTSD symptoms might use alcohol to gain relief from the persistent memories of the abuse.
**Associations between alcohol abuse
and child maltreatment**
Emotional & Psychological abuse
Emotional maltreatment can take five main behavioural forms: rejecting; isolating; terrorising; ignoring and corrupting (Price-Robertson & Bromfield, 2009). Parents who misuse alcohol may fail to provide the emotional support a child needs to feel safe and valued (Bromfield et al., 2010). Evidence also indicates that emotional abuse of children often co-occurs with incidents of reported domestic violence, which is also linked to excessive alcohol consumption and child physical abuse (Gibbs et al., 2008). In addition, children can be exposed to emotional maltreatment when parents force children to take on responsibility that is beyond the child's level of maturity. For example, a child may be required to look after the needs of siblings by providing care such as bathing, dressing or feeding. Children might also be used as a sounding board for parents who are, for example, in distress distress as a result of domestic violence or substance abuse (Dawe et al., 2007; Odyssey House, 2004).
Neglect is often the basis of repeated reports to child protection authorities, with alcohol as a contributing factor for chronic maltreatment of children who lack cognitive stimulation and emotional nurturing (Dawe, 2008; Fluke, Shustermen, Hollinshead, & Yuan, 2008; Scott, 2009; Yampolskaya & Banks, 2006). The chaotic lifestyles of many alcohol abusers can increase the risk of a child being neglected either physically or emotionally.
Women whose partners abuse alcohol to the point of initiating high levels of family conflict may react to this extreme form of traumatic stress by neglecting their children's needs (Gibbs et. al., 2008; Valleman & Templeton, 2007). Parents in treatment who abuse alcohol admit to often leaving children unsupervised during bath and meal times, elevating the risk of injury or harm (Odyssey House, 2004). Other situations where children can be at risk of harm include: being placed in a motor vehicle operated by an intoxicated person (Laslett et al., 2010; NH&MRC, 2009); being left to fend for themselves if a parent loses consciousness; and being placed in positions where they are vulnerable of being abused by others (Dawe et al., 2008).
Fleming and colleagues (1997) have supported the aforementioned hypothesis and have found that several factors are associated with a girl’s risk of being sexually abused, such as experiencing physical abuse, having a mother who was mentally ill, being socially isolated, and not having a person in which to confide. Furthermore, whereas an alcoholic father was a risk factor for CSA by a family member, an alcoholic mother was a risk factor for CSA by a person outside the family.
The mechanisms underlying this association between parental alcohol abuse and CSA remain unclear. Possibly, parental alcohol abuse increases children’s vulnerability to CSA by interfering with the parents’ ability to provide a supportive, nurturing, and protective environment (Miller et al. 1997). For example, an alcohol-abusing parent might be less available to protect a child from extrafamilial CSA than a non-alcohol-abusing parent.
(Source: Alcohol Abuse as a Risk Factor for and Consequence of Child Abuse
Cathy Spatz Widom, Ph.D., with Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Ph.D.)
fetal alcohol abuse
Binge drinking, even in the early stages of pregnancy, has been found to have small effects on arithmetic abilities and moderate drinking can affect a child's behaviour and ability to learn (Leonard & Eidon, 2007). Babies born to women with alcohol misuse problems are found to be underweight, have lower AGPAR2 scores and are more likely to require neonatal intensive care (Burns, Mattick, & Cooke, 2006). Hence, the NMHRC recommendations advocate abstinence when planning for pregnancy and during pregnancy as the safest option for mothers.
Abstinence is also recommended as the safest option while mothers are breastfeeding. However, if breastfeeding mothers do consume alcohol the guidelines recommend: abstaining in the first month of a baby's life; consuming no more than two standard drinks in a day; not consuming alcohol directly prior to breastfeeding; and planning ahead by expressing breast milk prior to drinking. http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs27/index.html
An alcoholic parent cannot parent properly
Children deserve the right to be children. They deserve the right to a nurturing childhood. After all, they are only children.