"Wine you get every day, but a child you can't replace": The perceived impact of parental drinking on child outcomes in a South African township

J Child Adolesc Ment Health. 2015;27(3):173-87. doi: 10.2989/17280583.2015.1113974.


Objective: This study explored the perceived impact of parental drinking on children in a South African township where alcohol abuse is prevalent and high levels of existing poverty and violence may exacerbate potential consequences on children.

Method: Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 92 male and female participants recruited from alcohol-serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa.

Results: Grounded theory analyses revealed three major aspects of parental drinking - intoxication, venue attendance and expenditures on alcohol - which participants linked to negative proximal outcomes (e.g., child neglect, abuse and exposure to alcohol culture) and long-term outcomes (e.g., fractured parent-child relationships and problematic youth behaviours). In addition, preliminary accounts from some participants suggested that parents may experience tensions between desires to reduce drinking for child-related reasons and complex factors maintaining their drinking behaviour, including the use of alcohol to cope with stressors and trauma.

Conclusions: This study provides novel insights into the consequences and motivations of parental drinking in a high-risk context. Contextual risks (e.g., poverty and violence) that exacerbate the impact of parental drinking on children may be the same factors that continue to shape intergenerational alcohol use in this community. Findings highlight opportunities for further research and interventions to support child protection in South Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Welfare / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology
  • South Africa