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16 Feb, 2015

Health & Wellness: Alcoholics Will Pass their Drinking Problem on to their Children

New York (13-02-2015),  Joint Press Release IOGT International, Nacoa UK, NACoA (USA) — – Marking Children of Alcoholics Week 2015, Civil Society leaders have called in a joint press release for stronger efforts to not leave children of alcoholics isolated and alone. “Children of Alcoholics are all too often silently suffering because their needs are rarely part of the political or public discourse – and that is nothing less than a Human Rights crisis,” said Kristina Sperkova, President of IOGT International.

In Australia between 17 to 34% (ca. 1 million children) live in households with at least one adult being addicted.

In the USA, mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics and fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics. More than half of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs on the part of the parents. There are an estimated 26 million Children of Alcoholics (CoAs) in the USA. This translates to 1 in 4 American children.

In the European Union, there are at least 9 million children and young people growing up with alcohol-addicted parents. Nacoa UK’s research estimates that there are 2.6 million children of school age living with parental alcohol problems in the UK alone.

In low- and middle-income countries, children of alcoholics often end up on the streets – exposed to dangers such as substance use, criminality, and/ or trafficking.

“We think that decision-makers on local, national and regional levels everywhere can no longer remain silent in the face of the situation of millions of impacted children and young people,” said Maja Stojanovska, Secretary-General of the European youth and junior organization Active-sobriety, friendship and peace.

“Alcohol harm too often gets in the way of the dreams and the full potential of these youngsters. If we want productive and healthy citizens and a bright future, we need to make sure our children have a joyful and safe childhood.”

Studies from all over the world have shown that CoAs are at far greater risk for developing alcohol and other health and mental health problems later in their lives. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcoholism. They score lower on measures of family cohesion, intellectual-cultural orientation, active-recreational orientation, and independence.

With the backdrop of these facts Hilary Henriques, Nacoa UK CEO and Co-founder, urged: “We need to provide accessible and inclusive services for children and young people struggling with their parent’s alcohol problems; an opportunity for them to see that the world can be different from the one they’ve always known, empowering them with a variety of life skills to help them cope with difficult challenges; enabling them to become psychologically healthy, able to deal with hurt and distress, to experience happiness and to break the cycle of addiction, irrespective of whether their parent(s) continue to drink.’

“Any society that considers itself civilized takes care of its most vulnerable children. Children of alcoholics live in a world that does not take care of them — a silent world of fear and confusion where the people who should nurture and support them are the ones that are hurting them,” stated Sis Wenger, President and CEO of the US-based National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA).

To summarize the joint message of the global coalition, Kristina Sperkova highlighted the Convention on the Rights of the Child: “Seen with the eyes of our children, the world we live in has an alcohol problem.

“Children of alcoholics should not feel that they are left alone. It is fundamentally important to invest into the creation of many more alcohol free environments in countries around the world. The Best Interest Principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child needs to be turned into reality.”

Sources for key facts

Booklet: All Rights! Alright? Youth rights in alcohol culture

Fact sheet: Children of alcoholics (CoA) – the facts

Tool-kit: Children of Alcoholics – a guide for educators 

Scientific paper, via NIAAA Psychological characteristics of CoA

CoA Week 2015 – all information

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child