Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children

Substance abuse impacts many Americans, causing significant health problems that effect people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic statuses. While substance abuse is damaging for the individual, addiction can also compromise the quality of surrounding relationships. Coworkers, friends, and family members may experience a negative impact on the relationship, and this is especially true for children living in homes with parents who abuse substances.

All children face different developmental and social challenges as they grow. But children living with addicted parents have a harder time developing due to the lack of adequate care from the parent. Often times, struggling parents lack the ability to provide basic physical, psychological, and emotional support for their kids. Additionally, children who are constantly exposed to parents with substance addiction are likely to struggle with substance abuse themselves in the future.

Impact on Children

Children with parents who abuse substances are susceptible to the following conditions:

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by parents
  • Experience neglect from peers
  • Early mental health problems, such as depression or obsessiveness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Behavioral problems
  • Poor academic performance
  • Predisposition towards future substance abuse
  • Antisocial personality traits
  • Lack of appropriate social contact skills

Living with a parent struggling with substance abuse can lead to long-term physical and psychological health problems. Children may suffer from interpersonal relationship problems, psychological distress, and trouble at work or school, all which may compromise their future wellbeing. It is critical for children to receive proper care and attention to prevent a lifetime of negative effects. Parents seeking therapy can help develop skills to address their substance abuse and improve the relationship with their kids. Children can also receive therapy in order to improve stress management and develop secure social and intimate skills with others.

If you know any family members or friends who are at risk of substance abuse, contact a professional therapist right away. At Counseling California, we have many specialized MFTs that can address substance abuse and develop constructive, life enrichening solutions. Take a look at our directory of therapists for more information.

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Donna J. Shanahan M.A.

Donna J. Shanahan, MA

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist 
Pasadena, CA 91101

I am a Marriage and Family therapist in private practice. I work with individuals, couples, and families in short and long-term psychotherapy. We work together to explore memories of the relational dynamics of the individual’s family, the feelings those dynamics created for the individual as a child, and how the individual now relates to those feelings and memories.

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