Children Living with a Substance Abusing Parent

Contact Media Services: (240) 276-2130

SAMHSA News Bulletin

Date: 4/29/2009
Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office
Telephone: 240-276-2130

Study: More Than 1 in 10 Children Live with a Substance Abusing Parent

Almost 12 percent of children under the age of 18 years of age live with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report is based on national data from 2002 to 2007.

“The research increasingly shows that children growing up in homes with alcohol- and drug-abusing parents suffer – often greatly,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “The chronic emotional stress in such an environment can damage their social and emotional development and permanently impede healthy brain development, often resulting in mental and physical health problems across the lifespan. This underlines the importance of preventive interventions at the earliest possible age.”

Among the findings:

• Almost 7.3 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol
• About 2.1 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs
• 5.4 million children lived with a father who met the criteria for past year substance dependence or abuse, and 3.4 million lived with a mother who met this criteria.

Findings for Children Living with Substance-Dependent or Substance-Abusing Parents: 2002 to 2007 are drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual nationwide survey of persons aged 12 and older. This report focused on questions asked of 87,656 parents aged 18 and older about their substance dependence and abuse.

The full report is available on the web at  Copies may be obtained free of charge by calling SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727) or going to

For related publications and information, visit

In addition, SAMHSA has a Children's Program Kit for use by substance abuse treatment programs to provide educational support programs for the children of their clients in substance abuse treatment. It teaches children a variety of skills to fostering a sense of purpose and hope. The toolkit has activities for children from elementary school through high school. It also contains information for therapists to distribute to their clients to help parents understand the needs of their children, as well as training materials (including posters and DVDs) for substance abuse treatment staff who organize support groups for children.

This kit can be obtained at: .

A special version of this kit designed to be of particular help to Native American-oriented treatment organizations is available at: .

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