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Family Matters: Substance Abuse and the American Family

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2005
88 pages
This monograph places juvenile substance abuse in the context of the changing American family.
The authors note that the primary victims of substance abuse are children, and the strongest influence over children's substance use is families. In discussing American families in transition, the discussion focuses on the decline in marriage rates; increases in divorce, in single-parent families, in economic disadvantage, in the role of grandparents in children's lives, and in the recognition of the important role of fathers in children's lives; and the cultural and racial/ethnic differences in the role of families in substance abuse. The section that addresses the health effects on the family of parental substance abuse addresses prenatal exposure to tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use; the threat to children's physical and mental health of living with a substance-abusing parent; and the increased risk for substance abuse of children of substance abusers. A discussion of how substance abuse affects family functioning focuses on financial problems, marital dissatisfaction and the increased risk of divorce, shifting family roles, increased exposure to illness, partner violence, the risk for child abuse and neglect, school maladjustment, high turnover in child care, stigma and social isolation, exposure to crime, and unstable family environments that contribute to children's substance use. Suggestions for what parents can do to prevent children's substance use and abuse include the molding of responsible behaviors, the monitoring of children's activities, setting and enforcing rules, and the fostering of positive and supportive relationships with children. Information is provided on where and how parents can prevent substance abuse and intervene if it occurs. Chapter notes and a 300-item bibliography