The effects that substance misusing parents have on children and other family members

Richard Velleman recently gave a talk about the effects that substance misusing parents have on children and other family members, and on how to break the cycle of intergenerational harm.

He argued that

  1. Children are often badly affected by being brought up with a parent with a drug or alcohol problem.
  2. One effect can be that these children in turn go on to have serious problems with substances themselves, or to have other poor outcomes; although this is not a general rule and many of these children will prove to be resilient.  Hence there is SOME inter-generational transfer, but not as much as had been previously thought.
  3. We break these links by developing resilience in children, by working with them and their families, to reduce risk factors and develop protective factor.
  4. Interventions which work on reducing risk factors and developing protective ones are insufficiently evaluated as yet, but all of the indications are very positive.

He concluded that there are a huge number of ways of intervening with children, parents, and family members to try to develop resilience in their children, even if the drinker or drug misuser is unwilling to address their alcohol or drug consumption. He argued that it is important is that we professionals are not left feeling powerless to help these families and children, and that there is lots we can do with children, and their families, by focusing on reducing risk factors, building up protective ones, and developing resilience in these children.

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