What impact can a parent's addiction have on their children?

An addicted parent's behavior will impact all their children to a greater or lesser degree. We look for signs that the child is unable to cope with daily life: grades dropping, acting out, not able to sustain friendships.

By Allison Williams
April 19, 2016

As with spouses, the impact of a parent's addiction on children varies greatly from child to child. We all experience things differently. Normally the older that a child is, the more aware that the child is – no matter what the other parent says or does – that his or her parent is impaired. The child sees it in bloodshot eyes and senses it in mood behavior changes. In fact, younger children are actually much more oriented toward perceptual cues as opposed to actually seeing and speaking to their parent about addictive behavior because they aren’t able to articulate their thoughts and feelings through expressive language the way that older children are.

An addicted parent's behavior will impact all their children to a greater or lesser degree. We look for signs that the child is unable to cope with daily life, and we look for the same sorts of things in the addicted parent:

  • Is the parent functioning at work?
  • Is he or she able to sustain relationships?

We look for those same types of cues in children:

  • Is the child able to engage in school?
  • Is the child able to make good grades, stay on course?
  • Is the child starting to act out?

Perhaps the child is engaged in aggressive behavior, or perhaps clingy to one parent and not the other because the child is afraid of what's going on in the other household. You really have to look at the personality of a child to kind of get some signs of whether or not a child is being adversely impacted.

I think most people would start with the premise that a child is inherently adversely impacted when a parent is impaired – whether those signs are showing up by something quantifiable as a drop in school grades, or something more esoteric, such as a change in mood or affect.

Allison Williams is a Union, New Jersey family lawyer who is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a matrimonial law attorney. To learn more about Allison, visit her firm's online profile or her website www.familylawyersnewjersey.com.

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April 19, 2016
Categories:  Child Custody|FAQs

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