Exploring the Impact of Parental Addiction on Child Development in California

The impact of parental addiction on child development is huge. We Level Up California explores this connection and offers support and intervention strategies to combat substance abuse.


Those struggling with substance abuse rarely think of the impact of parental addiction on child development. Due to striking substance abuse statistics in California and the rest of the country, science, however, is paying much attention to it, and now it is well-investigated how parental substance abuse affects children. Both physical and mental health are affected, and it starts as early as in utero and lasts until well into adolescence.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 1 in 8 children in the US lived with at least one parent who had a substance abuse disorder (report from 2017). When it comes to California, research shows a prevalence of 2.1%, meaning nearly 280.000 children lived with parents suffering from substance use disorder (2015–2019 report).

These numbers demonstrate the severity of the problem and imply that actions should be taken. The fact that the impact of parental addiction on child development starts during pregnancy warns about the importance of an early reaction to substance abuse.

How Does Parental Substance Abuse Affect Children?

The effects of parental drug use on child development are huge. It is important to explore:

  1. Physical and developmental effects
  2. Psychological and emotional consequences
  3. Educational and social implications
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The Physical Effects of Parental Drug Use on Child Development

Parental addiction can create health-related issues for their children. Another way addicted parents can impact physical health and development is by neglecting their children or providing inconsistent care. Here are a few examples of how does parental substance abuse affect children physically: 

  • Inadequate physical development. Children may experience malnutrition or stunted growth.
  • Neglected health. An addicted parent might miss taking children to routine checkups, giving them medicine, or taking care of their injuries, jeopardizing their health that way. 
  • Abuse. It is more likely for physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to happen in households with addiction, creating both physical and mental traumas. 
  • Exposure to substances. Children might accidentally or out of curiosity ingest substances their addicted parents leave unattained. Substance use poses a threat for grown-ups, but it can be much worse for children. 

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Another thing to keep in mind about the impact of parental addiction on child development is that it can happen across age timelines. Using drugs during pregnancy increases the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome (newborns experiencing withdrawal symptoms), and studies also show a motor delay in children’s development. In infancy, there can be development delay due to negligence, and in early childhood, lack of parental structure can lead to sleep problems and consequentially impact brain development. Finally, in middle childhood, physical neglect can result in issues with growth and pubertal development.

It is never too late to put a stop to this path of negligence and ensure a child´s safety and healthy development. A parent with an addiction to substances such as meth can reclaim their life and help not only themselves but their children as well. California meth detox is the first step to health and sobriety. In a rehab center that specializes in medical detox, expecting and new parents can go through it safely.

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Psychologists are warning about the negative effects of parental drug use on child development.

The Psychological and Emotional Consequences

There are a number of psychological effects of parental drug use on child development. Research and practice reports show cognitive development delays, language delays, social delays, and emotional issues. Children may experience problems learning, concentrating, and memorizing. They are at higher risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also at higher risk of developing substance abuse disorders. Sometimes, children of heroin addicts turn to this substance as their preferred choice. So, like the parents, they themselves may need California heroin detox later in life. 

Some typical emotional consequences of living with a parent struggling with substance abuse are:

  • Emotional instability. Children might struggle with emotional regulation and experience mood swings. 
  • Low self-esteem. Feelings of guilt and shame, as well as feeling different from peers, are common in children whose parents are struggling with addiction, leading to low self-worth and low self-esteem. 
  • Difficulties forming relationships. Trust issues are common in children growing up in households with addicts. This later creates problems in forming healthy relationships. 
  • Fear and insecurity. The instability of their home might lead children to develop a constant state of alertness, as well as fears and insecurities.

These issues can impact a child´s life in the long term, stopping them from having meaningful connections and the confidence to deal with life´s challenges. Learning how to help addicted parents can create a positive impact on more than one life and ensure a child´s healthy emotional development.

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Educational and Social Implications

From everything mentioned above, it´s fairly easy to assume how does parental substance abuse affect children in terms of education and achievement, as well as their social and emotional relationships. Studies discovered developmental delays in cognition affecting memory and concentration. This then impacts the ability to learn, academic achievement, and later professional success. Mistrust and instability of the primary home impact future social relationships, making it more difficult to establish friendships and ask for help. Additionally, parental unavailability due to substance abuse impacts attachment style, making it more difficult to build emotional relationships and find partners in the future. 

Knowing these long-term consequences, it becomes essential to create this missing stability at home by addressing substance abuse as soon as the first signs of addiction are present. Professional support can put you on the right path and speed up the recovery process. Drug detox in California is the first step you need to get your life back on track. 

You will want a tailored solution when struggling with addiction, as each person has a unique experience, needs, and circumstances. We Level Up California can help you find a supportive and well-crafted program for a variety of substance abuse problems.

A child alone with a stuffed animal, showing the impact of parental addiction on child development can have social consequences.
The impact of parental addiction on child development is not something to ignore.

Support and Intervention Strategies

Dealing with substance abuse disorder is a challenging task, especially when children are involved, and the impact of parental addiction on child development is present. Still, recovery is possible when there is support. Depending on individual experiences with drug use, personal circumstances, preferences, and openness to the process, different levels of care and treatment options can be put in place. Dual diagnosis programs, for instance, can aid those struggling with co-occurring mental health issues or substance abuse.  

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However, the first step should always be detoxification, like opiate detox. This step is essential to get rid of any trace of drugs in one´s system. We always suggest doing it as a part of inpatient rehab since, this way, a person gets 24/7 assistance and medications to address withdrawal symptoms and prevent risks related to detoxifying on your own.

While in inpatient rehab, the person would get crafted evidence-based psychotherapy like CBT or DBT to help develop new, healthy coping mechanisms and develop skills. Other than individual therapy, group therapy is also available to help people feel accepted and a part of the community.

Our addiction treatment in California offers a comprehensive recovery program that will address the specificities of any case. More than just helping with addiction problems, we aim to assist anyone on their path to mental health and life satisfaction. By helping the person struggling with addiction, we aim to lessen the impact of parental addiction on child development.

Family Support Programs and Their Benefits

Support is everything when it comes to addiction recovery. Other than relying on reliable professionals, one´s family is a factor that aids the healing process. Understanding the vital role of the family, We LeveL Up CA offers family support in addition to recovery programs.

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Family support can come in the form of advising and informing family members, helping organize an intervention, suggesting treatments, and even directly including family members via family programs. Family programs are all about empowering families to assist their members on the path to mental health and sobriety. Group psychotherapy sessions with family can resolve underlying substance abuse issues and help develop more productive communication, bringing the family closer. 

Although family participation is important for the individual on the path to recovery, it also benefits the family. Not only does the family experience togetherness, but it also develops skills and resilience to prevent or face any potential future challenges. Involving one´s family can soften the impact of parental addiction on child development and, thus, help more than one family member.

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Look for support to discover how parental substance abuse affects children.

Lessen the Impact of Parental Addiction on Child Development at We Level Up California

When drugs become a priority, the impact of parental addiction on child development starts being detrimental. Parents struggling with addiction tend to neglect their children as they lose focus on their role as a parent and providers of emotional and physical stability. This leads to feelings of shame and guilt and usually ends up with more substance abuse as it is a pattern to cope with unwanted feelings.

To deal with substance abuse before it starts negatively impacting children and to avoid this vicious circle of using substances as a way to cope, one should look for support as soon as one becomes aware of their problem. Sometimes, it is difficult to develop this awareness, making the role of friends and family that much more important. Knowing how parental substance abuse affects children leaves no place for delay in the recovery program. Organizing an intervention or having that difficult talk can go a long way. Seek professional help and take the first step in the right direction.

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Sources:

SAMHSA. “Report Reveals That About 1 in 8 Children Lived with at Least One Parent Who Had a Past Year Substance Use Disorder.” www.samhsa.gov, 24 Aug. 2017, www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/20170824.

Salo, Saara, and Marjo Flykt. “The Impact of Parental Addiction on Child Development.” Parenting and Substance Abuse, Mar. 2013, pp. 195–210, https://doi.org/10.1093/med:psych/9780199743100.003.0010.

“(PDF) The Impact of Parental Substance Abuse on Children.” ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/333817442_The_Impact_of_Parental_Substance_Abuse_on_Children.

Wai Fun Cheng, Anna, et al. “The Physical and Developmental Outcomes of Children Whose Mothers Are Substance Abusers: Analysis of Associated Factors and the Impact of Early Intervention.” Frontiers in Pediatrics, Frontiers in Pediatrics, 20 Oct. 2022, doi.org/10.3389/fped.2022.1004890.

Lander, Laura, et al. “The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice.” Social Work in Public Health, vol. 28, no. 3-4, 27 July 2013, pp. 194–205, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725219/, https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2013.759005.

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