According to our recently published research.
This is the first national cohort study in Aotearoa, New Zealand, focusing on child maltreatment in children under the age of 18 and alcohol use by adults caring for them. We estimate that at least 11% of abuse may be due to dangerous or heavy drinking among caregivers.
This is also the first global study to examine all five domains of child abuse: physical abuse, neglect or neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to domestic violence. alcohol use among parents.
Our findings show that children exposed to this alcohol use by their caregivers have a 65% increased risk of maltreatment. But the current alcohol policy does not reflect this. We argue that it can play an important role in preventing harm to children.
Alcohol and the risk of child abuse
Caregivers who drink may be less vigilant or cause conflict or violence. It is important to reduce this damage, as children are largely unable to remove themselves from the harmful environment.
We analyzed data from 58,359 children aged 0-17 and their parents, from 2000 to 2017. Parents with hazardous or severe alcohol use were identified through hospitalizations or their use of mental health and substance abuse services, including community services.
Across all five child maltreatment domains, 14% of children experienced at least one maltreatment event. This percentage increased to 34% for emotional abuse. The next most common types were neglect and exposure to domestic violence, both at about 20%.
Dangerous or severe alcohol use among parents increased the risk of child abuse by 65%.
Read more: Major survey reveals two-thirds of people who are victims of child abuse have more than one kind
The burden of alcohol in child abuse
We also analyzed data from one year – 2017. We found that between 11.4% and 14.6% of child maltreatment may be due to hazardous or serious parental consumption. This impact of alcohol on assault is comparable to the road deaths caused by others who drink (13%), highlighting the magnitude of the problem.
Exposure to hazardous alcohol has been implicated in child abuse as part of a cluster of triggers. This often mirrors other types of adversities that families experience.
In our study, the risk of child maltreatment was higher for children born into a family with pre-existing adversities, such as heavy use of other drugs, mental health problems or the age of the mother at the time of delivery.
If a family had a history of hazardous alcohol use, it was more at risk for abuse than if the family developed alcohol problems as the child grew up. Children from families with a low educational status were nearly five times more likely to be abused than families with a high educational status.
Read more: Why New Zealand should consider restricting alcohol sponsorship of sports broadcasts as part of wider law reform
We argue that alcohol policies have a place in preventing alcohol-related child abuse. It is crucial that children are given more attention in the alcohol policy debate.
We know about previous research that increasing taxes on alcohol, banning or reducing alcohol marketing, and reducing the availability of alcohol will work to reduce heavy drinking among adults. By default, this can protect children from the secondary effects of alcohol.
This policy is cost-effective in reducing harm from alcohol and does not place further burdens on child protection services.
Lack of health regulations for alcohol
There are challenges in implementing an effective alcohol policy. We still don’t have internationally binding health regulations for alcohol. Alcohol remains the only major addictive substance without such oversight.
The structure and practices of the alcohol industry, as with other industries that produce and market unhealthy products, also play a critical role in this challenge.
The main source of disagreement between the alcohol industry and the public health community stems from the industry’s reliance on heavy consumption for sale and profit. This conflict of interest is a powerful motivator for industry interference in both effective policy development and implementation.
Nevertheless, children have the right to be protected against ill-treatment (Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). Good public policies can somewhat reduce alcohol’s burden on child abuse and also reduce prenatal alcohol exposure and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.