Screening, early identification, and office-based intervention with children and youth living in substance-abusing families

Pediatrics. 1999 May;103(5 Pt 2):1099-112.


All health care professionals with clinical responsibility for the care of children and adolescents must be able to recognize, as early as possible, associated health problems or concerns in children of substance-abusing parents, and to be able to assist these children and families in seeking treatment and promoting health. Health care providers can have a tremendous influence on families of substance-abusing parents because of their understanding of family dynamics and their close long-standing relationship with the family. Information about family alcohol and other drug use should be obtained as part of routine history-taking and when there are indications of family dysfunction, child behavior or emotional problems, school difficulties, and recurring episodes of apparent accidental trauma, and in the setting of recurrent or multiple vague somatic complaints by the child or adolescent. In many instances, family problems with alcohol or drug use are not blatant; rather, their identification requires a deliberate and skilled screening effort. Combining the principles of anticipatory guidance, screening, and early identification, with the acknowledgment that families should be included in the process, leads to a clear conclusion that screening for children affected by parental substance abuse must occur at all ages across infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Health care providers need to be trained in the identification and management of children and youth exposed to parental addiction. Such training must begin during undergraduate education in the health professions and be reinforced by role-modeling among health professions faculty as well as practicing providers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Family*
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States