A new report, Data Spotlight: Over 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shows that 7.5 million children under age 18 (10.5%) live with a parent who has experienced an alcohol use disorder in the past year; 6.1 million children live with two parents where either one or both parents has experienced problems with alcohol and 1.4 million live in a single-parent house (1.1 million living with a single mother and 0.3 million living with a single father).
Alcohol use disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association's newly revised DSM-V manual, (the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals) as a pattern of substance abuse leading to clinically significant impairment by at least two of 10 criteria in a 12-month period, including failure to fulfill major role obligations at work or home, recurrent abuse in situations where it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving), continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems.
Children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves; most children also suffer some form of neglect or abuse.
The report analyzed data from the SAMSHA-sponsored 2005-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) of 67,500 individuals aged 12 and older and was released in conjunction with Children of Alcoholics Week, February 12-18, 2012.
“The enormity of this public health problem goes well beyond these tragic numbers as studies have shown that the children of parents with untreated alcohol disorders are at far greater risk for developing alcohol and other problems later in their lives,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.
Data from the 2009 California Health Information Survey, conducted every two years by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, shows that 31.5% of married parents and 34.5% of single parents admit to binge drinking in the past year (binge drinking is 5 or more drinks on one occasion).
A 2002 to 2007 SAMHSA National Surveys on Drug Use and Health found that alcohol use disorder in fathers had a huge impact on alcohol use in their adolescent children: 38.8 % of these teens admited to drinking in the past year, 13% admited to binge drinking in the past month, and 10% had already developed an alcohol use disorder.
In California in 2008-10, according to Kidsdata.org, a database program compiled by the Lucille Packard Foundation, by 11th grade, 18% of girls and 16% of boys admit to drinking 1-2 times in past month, with 2.1% and 3.5% admitting to drinking on 20 or more days in the past month.
Several counties have much higher statistics: in Calaveras, Lake, Marin, Mariposa, Mono, Napa, Plumas, and Tehama counties, over 25% of 11th grade girls admitted to drinking 1-2 times in the past month; in Calaveras and Marin, 4.5% of girls drank alcohol on 20 or more days. Lower percentages of 11th grade boys admitted to drinking in some of these counties, but at the same time had much higher rates of regular drinking patterns: in Mono County, for example, 18% of 11th grade boys drank 1-2 times in the past month (closer to the state average), but 6.4% admitted to drinking on 20 or more days.
Plumas County (county seat: Quincy) has the highest rates of drinking in teens: 33% of 11th grade girls and 28% of boys drank once or twice a month, and 8% of boys drank on at least 20 days in the past month.
Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle.