National Council On Child Abuse and Family Violence

Updated 01 November 2014
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Parental Substance Abuse A Major Factor 
In Child Abuse And Neglect

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Parental substance abuse is a major factor contributing to child abuse and neglect. This connection is the subject of a new booklet by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). 

Among the booklet's findings are the following:

  • More than 8 million children live with parents who are substance abusers.

  • Substance abuse exists in 40 to 80 percent of families in which the children are victims of abuse.

  • Children whose substance-abusing parents do not receive appropriate treatment are more likely to remain in foster care longer and to reenter foster care once they have returned home.

  • Children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.

Parents' abuse of alcohol and other drugs can lead to a cycle of addiction, which is reflected by high rates of alcoholism and other substance abuse among children of addicts. Substance abuse among youth leads to a domino effect of problems in school, involvement in juvenile justice, teen pregnancy, and mental and emotional turmoil. By focusing on prevention programs for youth, the authors contend that the cycle can be broken. They also recommend that parents receive treatment from comprehensive programs. 


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