Skip to main content

The hidden harm: Alcohol’s impact on children and families

Heavy drinking is linked to a range of negative effects in families from modelling of poor drinking behaviours, family arguments and ruined family occasions and relationships to child injuries, ongoing child neglect and abuse and domestic violence.

The 2008 Harm to Others (HTO) Survey reported in The Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others (Laslett et al. 2010) showed that the majority of Australians had been affected by others’ drinking in the last year and many had been seriously affected. Amongst those more seriously affected were family members, including children. The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) conducted a follow-up HTO Survey in 2011, which showed that many Australians were affected in an ongoing way by others’ drinking.

This report focuses on the findings that relate to children and families from these surveys and collates other data from a range of sources to supplement these findings to analyse how Australian children and families have been affected by the drinking of others, especially family members. The research questions addressed are:

1. How common and what are the effects of heavy drinking upon families and children?
a. How do these effects vary in different relationships?
b. Are there differences in the ways in which parents, siblings and grandparents are harmed by and care for those in their families?
c. Do the effects vary depending on whether the respondent or child is or is not living with the heavy drinker, and whether the drinker is an immediate family member?
2. To what extent do the effects upon children and families persist or change over time?
3. What is the qualitative nature and impact of harms to children and families from others’ drinking?
4. What services are available for families and children if they have been affected by the drinking
5. What types of service and policy interventions are likely to improve the situations of those affected by others’ drinking?of those around them?