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The Harm Inflicted on Children by the Problematic Consumption of Alchology by a Parent or Parents

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Introduction

The Harm Inflicted on Children by the Problematic Consumption of Alchology by a Parent or Parents For the purpose of this essay, problem drinking is defined simply as any drinking which causes problems to the drinkers or others. The focus of this essay is the harm inflicted on children by the problematic consumption of alcohol by a parent or parents. An estimated 920,000 children are currently living with a parent who misuses alcohol: heavy drinking by parents was identified as a factor in over one fifth of child protection case conferences and twenty three per cent of child neglect calls to a national helpline were alcohol related (Green, 2000). Despite these alarming statistics, help for families affected by alcohol misuse is woefully inadequate. Families that experience problems with alcohol are fragile families. Harms related to alcohol are by no means restricted to drinkers themselves as those around them can also be damaged. The children of problem drinkers are particularly vulnerable to harm. A childhood in such a family can mean a childhood in distress: a distress that is often hidden to those outside the family and neglected by policy makers. The problematic consumption of alcohol affects millions of families, and thus millions of children, causing harm and misery on a scale which dwarfs the problems associated with illegal drugs. ...read more.

Middle

These can be grouped under three main headings: i. Anti-social behaviour: children of problem drinking parents are at risk of aggressive behaviour; delinquency, hyperactivity and other forms of conduct disorder. ii. Emotional problems: these include a wide range of psycho-somatic problems from asthma to bed wetting; negative attitudes to their parents and to themselves, with high levels of self-blame, withdrawal and depression. iii. School environment: the problems include learning difficulties, reading retardation; loss of concentration; generally poor school performance; behavioural problems such as aggression and truancy. There is also a statistically significant impairment among children of alcoholics in many areas, including: anorexia and other eating disorders; body development; language and communication skills; nightmares, insomnia and nocturnal restlessness; a higher rate of depressive symptom; disturbed behaviour patterns; anxiety related disorders and phobias (Velleman, 1993) Also for a substantial minority of the affected children, the problems continue into their adult lives and indeed, some children of problems drinking parents themselves become transmitters of the problems to the next generation. Children whose parents are problem drinkers are unheard, invisible casualties. Reticence and secrecy characterise their lives. The stigma associated with alcohol misuse keeps them silent to protect their families. Alcohol misuse has cast a blight on lives made much worse by the difficulty families have in asking for help. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Government has a central role in ensuring appropriate organisations can work together and in ensuring that the many planning systems already in place to provide services are fully equipped to take account of the needs of children of problems drinking parents. In particular the Government should require that the needs of these children be addressed in Children's Services Plans and Community Care Plans. These should include specific guidance on how local service providers should view their obligations under children's legislation and where necessary, ensure that resources are available to respond to identify needs. As this evidence in this essay makes very disturbing reading, we have to be concerned, very concerned at the scale of this problem and how little is being done to combat it. Alcohol problems in families are important because families are important. The essential functions of the family are to meet the needs of its members for physical, psychological, social and economic security and well being, and the provision of a satisfactory environment for the support, education and socialisation of children. All of these functions can be jeopardised by the problematic consumption of alcohol. The paramount importance of the rights of the child to grow up in a safe and secure environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding is enshrined in the United Nations declarations, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right to a satisfactory family life implies a right to assistance in the event of parental abuse or misuse of alcohol. ...read more.

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