Alcohol & Child Abuse

The link between parents drinking alcohol and their children suffering abuse is unmistakable. More than 76 million people worldwide abuse alcohol, explains Fourteen million of them live in the USA and 6.6 million American children grow up in alcoholic households, according to 2. More than a million children are victims of child abuse each year, and alcohol is a major factor in nine of every ten cases. Two in five abusive parents are alcoholics.

Physical and Sexual Abuse

Findings have indicated that parental alcohol abuse is associated with the physical or sexual abuse of children, explains the U.S. National Institute of Health 3. Physical abuse includes cuts, bruises, burns and fractures, while sexual abuse includes everything from touching to rape. Living with an alcoholic is traumatic for children and often leads to neglect as parents cannot control impulses and suffer from impaired judgment. When parents feel guilt about a drinking problem, they sometimes take it out on their children. If parents are constantly drunk and cannot perform routine household chores, they often get left to children. If they are not done to the parents’ liking, the child may be physically abused. Children may be beaten for simple things, like spilling a drink, wetting their pants or crying. Drunken parents may sexually abuse their children, or they may be so drunk they do not prevent another adult from sexually abusing their children. Even if parents do not regularly abuse alcohol, it only takes one time for the child to be abused.


Not all abuse suffered by children at the hands of drunk parents is sexual or physical. Neglect suffered by children includes a lack of food, shelter, clothing or medical attention. If parents spend all their money on alcohol, their children are often left with scraps. Neglect also includes emotional abuse. Growing up with an unpredictable parent who is emotionally unavailable because of drinking can cause long-term damage to a child’s psychological welfare. Drunken parents often fail to teach or nurture their children.


When parents abuse alcohol and abuse children, both problems must be treated simultaneously. Otherwise the child will not be safe and the treatment is unlikely to work. If an adult quits alcohol, it is not guaranteed that he will stop abusing his children. The second problem cannot be addressed until the adult has stopped drinking. As he is weaned off alcohol, the children are at palpable risk because he may grow frustrated at not being able to drink, so regular monitoring is required.


Education is the key to preventing child abuse. Children must know it is not right for adults to beat them, sexually abuse them or fail to provide for them materially or emotionally. They must feel confident to report neglect. Teachers, doctors and nurses all need to be educated on spotting signs of domestic abuse. Abusive, alcoholic parents need to be educated on the damage the abuse is doing to their children, and they need access to self-help groups and alcohol support services.


A number of children who suffer abuse often grow up to be alcoholics themselves. They turn to alcohol to blot out the bad memories and grow dependant on it. They often become abusive parents too, and the cycle persists.