Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

The Association Between Adverse Child Health, Psychological, Educational and Social Outcomes, and Nondependent Parental Substance: A Rapid Evidence Assessment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ruth McGovernORCiD, Dr Eilish Gilvarry, Dr Michelle Addison, Dr Hayley AldersonORCiD, Dr Emma Geijer Simpson, Dr Raghu Lingam, Debbie Smart, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© 2018, The Author(s) 2018. Background: Between 5% and 30% of children in high-income countries live with a substance misusing parent, the majority of which is below dependent levels. However, little is understood about the impact of nondependent parental substance misuse upon children. Methods: We searched the international literature using rigorous systematic methods to identify studies examining parental substance misuse and adverse outcomes in children. The inclusion criteria were cross-sectional, longitudinal, case-control, and cohort studies; of children aged 0–18 years whose parents are high-risk substance misusers; reporting on their health, psychological, substance use, educational, and social outcomes. Results: We identified 36 papers (from 33 unique studies), most of which were assessed as being of medium to high methodological quality (N= 28). Parental nondependent substance misuse was found to be associated with adversity in children, with strong evidence of an association with externalizing difficulties (N = 7 papers, all finding an association) and substance use (N = 23 papers, all finding an association) in adolescents and some evidence of adverse health outcomes in early childhood (N = 6/8 papers finding an association). There is less evidence of an association between parental substance misuse and adverse educational and social outcomes. The body of evidence was largest for parental alcohol misuse, with research examining the impact of parental illicit drug use being limited. Conclusion: Methodological limitations restrict our ability to make causal inference. Nonetheless, the prevalence of adverse outcomes in children whose parents are nondependent substance misusers highlights the need for practitioners to intervene with this population before a parent has developed substance dependency.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McGovern R, Gilvarry E, Addison M, Alderson H, Geijer-Simpson E, Lingam R, Smart D, Kaner E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Trauma, Violence, and Abuse

Year: 2020

Volume: 21

Issue: 3

Pages: 470-483

Print publication date: 01/07/2020

Online publication date: 08/05/2018

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Date deposited: 31/05/2018

ISSN (print): 1524-8380

ISSN (electronic): 1552-8324

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/1524838018772850


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Public Health England