Family Alcohol Problems

  • Double the risk of divorce/separation.
  • 40% of domestic violence incidents.
  • 25% of known child abuse cases.
  • 60% of Child Protection Register.

Robinson (2000):

It’s not the drinking, but…

  • Violence in the home.
  • Marital/relationship conflict.
  • Separation, divorce, loss of parent.
  • Inconsistency and ambivalent parenting.
  • Unpredictability.
  • Drinking parent centred not child-centred.

Possible Effects on Family Life

  • Inconsistency, changing moods.
  • Role reversal.
  • Communication problems.
  • Routines and rituals.
  • Social life.
  • Finances.

Effects on Family Functioning

  • Family conflict and disharmony.
  • Cruel, passive or neglectful parental attitude.
  • Inconsistent and unpredictable parenting.
  • Parents do not set clear or safe limits.
  • Children take on parental role.
  • Parents are emotionally unavailable and distracted.
  • Outings and social events fraught with uncertainty.
  • Child fears parent might die or otherwise leave them.
  • Deprivation caused by poverty.

Effects on Children

  • Anti-social behaviour – aggressiveness, delinquency, conduct disorders, hyperactivity.
  • Adolescence – problems associated with using drugs and alcohol.
  • Emotional problems-psycho-social problems, asthma, bedwetting, negative attitudes to self.
  • School environment-academic problems, difficulties learning, loss of confidence, conduct disorders.

Problem drinking parents are often:

  • Unpredictable.
  • Aggressive.
  • Chaotic.
  • Inconsistent.
  • Unreliable.

Adverse consequences

  • Typically multiple and cumulative.
  • Failure to thrive.
  • Blood-borne infections.
  • Incomplete immunisation and inadequate health care.
  • Wide range of emotional, cognitive, behavioural and other psychological problems.
  • Early substance misuse and offending behaviour.
  • Poor educational attainment

ACMD (2003)

Longer Term Effects

  • Effects on transition to adulthood.
  • Friendship difficulties.
  • Division between home and peers -home seen as negative.
  • Drinking alcohol/drug-taking at an earlier age.
  • Leaving home early -by comparison with others.
  • Prescribed psycho-active drugs as children and adolescents (27% v 3%) by age 17
  • Earlier marriages -seeking social stability.

Children of Problem Drinkers

  • Do not expect adults to provide well for them.
  • Do not anticipate love, warmth or friendship.
  • Are hyper-vigilant towards changing moods.
  • Take too much or too little responsibility.
  • See positive outcomes to problems as exceptions.
  • Do not trust adults to be fair.
  • Find it difficult to relax and enjoy things
  • Expect and even create conflict in relationships.

Protective Factors

  • A non-drinking parent.
  • Cohesive parental relationship.
  • Cohesive family.
  • Rituals maintained.
  • Influence of important others.
  • Engaged with things outside the home.
  • Deliberate planning.

How to Increase Resilience?

Help a young person:

  • See themselves as separate from family problems.
  • Develop belief in own abilities.
  • Understand and express feelings and emotions.
  • Cope with difficulties and problem solve.
  • Engage in activities outside family.
  • Engaged with things outside the home.
  • Develop their own plans for the future.

The majority of this page was based on a presentation made by Wendy Robinson, NSPCC/ARP Family Alcohol Service. 2000.

To receive a copy of the NSPCC publication “Alcohol, Childcare and Parenting -A Handbook for Practitioners”, send an A4 SAE (telephone 020 7383 3817 or 020 7403 3369 for current postage costs):
Administrator, Family Alcohol Service
88-91 Troutbeck House
off Robert Street
London NW1 4EJ