Parenting And Alcohol Abuse

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Parenting and Alcohol Abuse


The study focuses on how substance use issues in parents can effect the development of their infants. his briefing paper looks at issues of child protection with specific emphasis on the alcohol misuse of parents. It outlines the key areas of concern for professionals who work with clients who are parents and who misuse alcohol. There are a number of case studies that illustrate the “grey” area between support and intervention, which will help those working in this field to clarify their own understanding of the issues.

Parenting and Alcohol Abuse


The study focuses on how substance use issues in parents can effect the development of their infants. For this purpose the paper discusses the characteristics of drug and/or alcohol dependent parents. The characteristics of drug and/or alcohol affected babies. Furthermore it presents thinking about how substance use in parents might effect infant's development and analyses what extra things a child focussed intervention might be looking at when assessing risk of a young child in families with substance use issues.

The Magnitude of the Problem

The effects of parental alcoholism start before a child is born. When a mother drinks while she is pregnant, the baby drinks too (Zucker, 1996, 46-55). This is known as fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, and it can have devastating results on the baby's health. Babies born with FAS are usually smaller than normal, and they often have facial deformities such as long, flat noses and misshapen skulls. If it is the father who drinks, or the mother's alcoholism starts after the baby is born, the child can still be badly affected. Children of alcoholics tend to feel like the alcoholism is somehow their fault, and they tend to do poorly in school when compared to their peers (Zucker, 1996, 46-55). They often are angry and tense because of their situation at home, and this translates into poor behavior and delinquency. Crucially, alcoholism tends to be genetic, meaning that it runs in families, so children with alcoholic parents are at an increased risk for alcoholism themselves. From 1984 to 1994 there was a fourfold increase in the number of people on methadone maintenance programs in Australia (Walsh, 1994), and most observers believe there is in excess of 250,000 heroin users in Australia (Crosbie, 1997). These figures do not of course include those who abuse other illicit or prescribed drugs and alcohol, but they serve to show that substance use is part of our community. It is difficult to estimate the number of women who give birth each year with a substance use issue, as most women report that they try not to disclose this when they are admitted to give birth (Whipple, 1995, 153-159).

Characteristics of Mothers with Substance Use Issues

The following are characteristics of mothers with substance abuse: 1993 pregnant addicts present for antenatal health care consistently later than other women (Whipple, 1995, 153-159). This seems to be in part due to women attributing amenorrhoea, nausea etc to ...
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