In this review, we consider the potential service needs of children of substance abusing parents based on what
we know about the risk outcomes faced by these children and the parenting deficits often present in these families.
Importantly, our review does not address the etiological role of parental substance abuse in children’s negative outcomes
but instead we discuss the complex inter-related risk factors that often co-occur with and exacerbate risk associated with
parental alcohol and drug use. We first review studies showing the elevated risk that children of substance abusing parents
face in general for poorer academic functioning; emotional, behavioral, and social problems; and an earlier onset of
substance use, faster acceleration in substance use patterns, and higher rates of alcohol and drug use disorders. We then
review studies showing contextual risk factors for children of substance abusing parents, including parenting deficits (less
warmth, responsiveness, and physical and verbal engagement as well as harsher and more over-involved interaction
styles), greater risk for child maltreatment, and less secure attachment patterns. We conclude with a discussion of future
directions for research and guidelines for professionals working with children and their families where parental substance
abuse is present.
Keywords: Academic achievement, attachment, behavioral functioning, child outcomes, cognitive functioning, emotional
functioning, families, maltreatment, mental health, parental substance abuse, parental alcohol abuse, parenting, risk factors, substance dependence, treatment needs
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport