Caregiver Substance Use and Trauma
Research spanning the last two decades has consistently demonstrated the powerful link between parental substance use, child maltreatment and severity of child trauma exposure (Drapela & Mosher, 2007; Dube, et al., 2001; Kelleher, Chaffin, Hollenberg, & Fischer, 1994; Magura & Laudet, 1996; Suchman, Rounsaville, DeCoste, & Luthar, 2007). One study found that parents having a substance use disorder were 2.9 times more likely to abuse their children and 3.2 times more likely to neglect their children than a case-controlled comparison group, even when demographic and other social variables were controlled (Chaffin, Kelleher, & Hollenberg, 1996). The link between parental substance use and child maltreatment has been attributed to a number of theoretical explanations including (1) intergenerational transmission of substance use and abusive behavior (McCloskey & Bailey, 2000; Sheridan, 1995); (2) adolescent/parent bond as a risk or protective factor of child deviant acts (Drapela & Mosher, 2007); (3) attachment and bonding negatively impacted by parental substance users' inability to nurture their children due to high levels of disorganization and avoidant behavior (Edwards, Eiden, & Leonard, 2004; Goodman, Hans, & Cox, 1999; Rodning, Beckwith, & Howard, 1991).
Substance Using Caregivers
Parents who misuse alcohol and drugs are often characterized as ineffective caregivers due to (1) physical and mental impairments during intoxication and withdrawal states which are often associated with ineffective parenting strategies and harsh discipline and punishment; (2) using limited funds on substances instead of food, shelter, and other basic household needs; and (3) spending time seeking, procuring, and using drugs and alcohol instead of caring for their children (Hien & Honeyman, 2000; Kolar, Brown, Haertzen, & Michaelson, 1994; Office of Applied Studies, 2003). Thus, a number of children of alcohol and drug users become involved in the child welfare system, with costs to the system estimated at $683 million for alcohol abuse and $337 million for drug abuse (Harwood, Fountain, & Livermore, 1998).
Caregiver Substance Use: The Impact on Children
Exposure to parental substance use, violence, and maltreatment significantly increases children’s risk for the development of health and mental health problems including mood disorders and anxiety disorders (Fellitti, et al., 1998). Social consequences of growing up with a parental substance user have also included increased likelihood of offspring engaging in adolescent substance use (Castro, Brook, Brook, & Rubenstone, 2006; Drapela & Mosher, 2007), developing their own patterns of addiction as adults (Mullings, Hartley, & Marquart, 2004; Widom, White, Scaja, & Marmorstein, 2007), increased risk for adult victimization and/or perpetration of violence (Corvo & Carpenter, 2000; Haller & Miles, 2003), and increased likelihood of being involved with the criminal justice system (Huebner & Gustafson, 2007; Murray, Jansen, & Farrington, 2007).