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Children pay cost of family alcohol abuse


Melissa Davey

Children are the victims of alcohol-related harm in more than one-fifth of Australian households, a new study shows.

Children are the victims of alcohol-related harm in more than one-fifth of Australian households, a new study shows. Photo: istockphoto

CHILDREN are the victims of alcohol-related harm in more than one-fifth of Australian households, a study has found, adding weight to calls for the price of alcohol sold in bottle shops to be increased to discourage large quantities being consumed in homes.

Most were harmed by family members or by other relatives, and the rest by the drinking of family friends, neighbours, coaches, religious leaders or others, according to the study published in the latest edition of the international journal Addiction.

The lead author of the study, Anne-Marie Laslett, said children were commonly exposed to heavy drinking by their parents and others at social occasions, and that younger parents tended to drink heavily more often than those who became parents later in life.

''The realities of parenting are that people make a lot of changes to their lives to accommodate having children and do their best, but I don't think we really know as much as we could about how much drinking in private homes and spaces actually affects our children,'' said Professor Laslett, who is a research fellow at the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre at Monash University.

While a study co-authored by Professor Laslett last year, The Range and Magnitude of Alcohol's Harm to Others, found alcohol was a risk factor in about 20,000 cases of child abuse in Australia, she said more studies were needed on drinking and child abuse in the wider population.

''We tend to mainly look at information about kids in the child-protection system who are victims of alcohol abuse, and we stigmatise those groups … but when we look at our own lives, we might find our drinking habits are not necessarily healthy to us or the children around us either.''

Researchers interviewed 1142 parents throughout Australia and found the most common form of harm that occurred to children through others drinking was verbal abuse, including yelling and criticism.

Three per cent of respondents said their children had witnessed domestic violence, while 1 per cent reported their children had suffered physical harm.

''I think we now need more research to find out how the kids are affected, if they suffer long-term and if that could inform policies such as increasing alcohol price, as evidence shows increasing price decreases the amount people drink.''

Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, Michael Farrell, said children could be affected by others' drinking, even in situations that might not be serious enough for child protection agencies to get involved. While alcohol could exacerbate aggression in those with a history of violent behaviour, he said, ''anyone who drinks too much can find themselves acting in an aggressive … manner''.


  • Alchohol addiction does not cause family violence; it often co-exists with family violence. Alcohol addiction is an extremely common excuse for family violence. There is lots of research and experience from welfare workers about this.
    It also a deeply embedded part of Australian mythology that it causes family violence. Unfortunately, perpetuating this myth distracts from the problem at hand: the attitudes about family and children precede the alcohol abuse.

    Date and time
    May 14, 2012, 8:13AM
    • Quite right.

      Birdsville, Werribee
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 10:08AM
  • children always suffer at the hands of adults. sadly, i dont think raising the price of alchohol will curb someones drinking habits. If a parent is drinking excessively regularly and being abusive whether verbal or physical, I would suggest that there is possibly an addiction problem. Raising the price of goods is not going to cure an addict/alcoholic. They need treatment. Until treated, they would either go for cheaper booze, or as seen in many cases, they will sacrifice a childs clothing, food, schooling funds so they can have their booze and cigarettes (another expensive legal addictive substance)

    Date and time
    May 14, 2012, 8:27AM
    • There is help available for people with drinking problems. Alcoholics Anonymous is free, readily available and works for a lot of people so long as they want to stop drinking. is a good place to start.

      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 9:28AM
    • Lou and Kaz (below) I agree. There is also AlAteen for teenagers whose lives are affected by alcohol, and AlANon,for families and friends affected by the practising and recovering alcoholic. Both free. Both readily available, both successful.

      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 11:42AM
  • The federal government cut 5 million from the drug and alcohol services budget. It seems to believe there is less of a problem, or that those who need eduction or help aren't vote winners. Wait and see. It is traditionally the libs who pay more for AOD services as they see the long term costs and benefits in perspective.
    I hope this is true.
    by the say, ,one MP pension of $120 000 over ten years would more than cover the AOD spending cuts.

    Date and time
    May 14, 2012, 8:28AM
    • This is a disturbing report, but not surprising. If the true impact and cost of excessive alcohol consumption were to be calculated - road trauma, criminal activity, social break down, health risks etc - then, I suspect we would be really shocked. Products containing alcohol are highly promoted as being adjuncts to social acceptance, success and good times. The truth of excesss needs to be made more apparent.

      Big Al
      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 8:31AM
      • why do people drink? Stress. The Family Household has been put under so much pressure over the last 15 years it is incredible. The cost of living, expenses through the roof, bills and energy prices on the rise... people drink at home to eleviate the stresses of life. Life is not getting any easier.. Australia's face is changing rapidly and we are losing our way of life... from an easy going nature to high stressed.... We have opened up our doors to foreign investment of land, business and just about everything and this comes with a price. We are not landlocked... we allow just about anyone in... this allows cheaper labour from migrants and tourists who work for cash supporting a black market... whilst the normal mums and dads cope brining up a few children. We now see added pressure from cost of transport, petrol and food bills.... This country and government is not looking after its own, we are supporting and pushed to support an international bend towards capitalistic society -- open our doors to everyone and lets suffer the consequences. We have Bailleu just rip the guts out of TAFE and the loss of $100million plus to an education system that supported lower income earners and families that needed it .. a stepping stone to university. This country is going to the dogs quicker than we know it.....

        Date and time
        May 14, 2012, 8:39AM
        • Speak for yourself. I drink Red wine and good premium beer because I like the taste, not because I'm stressed. I didn't read Bailleu had cut TAFE funding and go out and buy a bottle of Passionpop as you are suggesting. Quite Absurd. If Prices were to rise 20% due to more Tax I would buy more Coopers, Less Little Creatures, and increase my Homebrew production. For anyone who enjoys a drink price rises do not stop drinking, they just change drinking habits

          Date and time
          May 14, 2012, 11:19AM
      • A study done by ardent anti-alcohol campaigners such as this is not worth the paper it is printed on. Typically they have expanded their definitions of harm to include things like yelling at children or criticising them. There are times in every child's growing up phase that they need a good telling off and reminding of their misdeeds. Counting this as child abuse is misleading. The figures that they quote are so trivial that they should be disregarded.

        There is a move among the alcohol prohibitionists to return to the dark ages. We must not allow these busybodies to inflict their inadequacies on us.

        Date and time
        May 14, 2012, 8:40AM

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