A family study of the high-risk children of opioid- and alcohol-dependent parents

Am J Addict. Winter 2002;11(1):41-51. doi: 10.1080/10550490252801620.


In this article, the author sought to use a high-risk study design focused on the children of parents with opioid or alcohol use disorders and children of parents with no substance use disorder (SUD) to evaluate the specificity of the risk conferred by the type of parental SUD. Using structured psychiatric interviews, cognitive assessments, and measures of social, academic, and family functioning, the authors studied 96 families (187 parents and 183 children, mean age of 11.6 years). Sixteen families had parental opioid dependence (22 children, 64% male), 14 families had parental alcohol dependence (22 children; 59% male), and 66 families had no SUD (controls; 139 children; 58% male). Fifty-nine percent of children of opioid-dependent parents had at least one major psychopathological condition, compared to 41% of the alcohol group and 28% of the control group (p < 0.01). The children of opioid- and alcohol-dependent parents were of lower socioeconomic status and had significantly more diffculties in academic, social, and family functioning than did controls. Children of opioid- and alcohol-dependent parents have significantly higher rates of psychopathology as well as more difficulties in academic, social, and family functioning compared to the children of non-SUD parents. In addition, notable trends emerged for the opioid group to have more psychopathology and functional impairment than the alcohol group. With a growing consensus that certain risk factors for later SUD start in childhood with potentially treatable childhood-onset disorders, new preventive approaches for individuals at risk may be developed targeting childhood precursors of

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Environment
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychopathology