How Family Structure Relates to Substance Abuse

familybhIt has been documented throughout the years that children who grow up with a family history of substance abuse are more likely to develop a problem as well. How much of the blame is to be placed on genetics vs. learned social behaviors is a different story, though, and there is plenty of disagreement on which has the greater influence.

Now there is new research comparing the percentage of children who grow up in different types of family environments and have exposure to substance abuse problems. Taking information from the National Survey of Children’s Health, it was determined that children have less exposure to substance abuse and mental health issues in families that include both birth parents still married.

In cases where children lived with a divorced parent, single parent or step-parent, the percentage chance of their being exposed to behavioral health problems increased significantly. They were also more likely to need counseling themselves with these family histories present and changing family dynamics.

What the study wasn’t able to determine was whether the substance abuse or mental health problems were contributing factors in family shake-ups, or if the stress from difficult relationships contributed more to the behavioral health issues.

In any case, this is yet another indication of how much of an impact parents can have on the development of their children, whether good or bad. In the case of substance abuse prevention, parents should not expect schools or other groups to be responsible for the drug education of their kids – they need to take an active role in preventing addiction through open, honest communication and doing the best they can to provide stable environments for them.