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Improving the outcomes of children affected by parental substance abuse: a review of randomized controlled trials

Authors Calhoun S, Conner E, Miller M, Messina N

Received 18 March 2014

Accepted for publication 6 October 2014

Published 28 January 2015 Volume 2015:6 Pages 15—24

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S46439

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Li-Tzy Wu


Stacy Calhoun,1,2 Emma Conner,2 Melodi Miller,3 Nena Messina1

1UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2Department of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA; 3Social Solutions International, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, USA


Abstract: Substance abuse is a major public health concern that impacts not just the user but also the user's family. The effect that parental substance abuse has on children has been given substantial attention over the years. Findings from the literature suggest that children of substance-abusing parents have a high risk of developing physical and mental health and behavioral problems. A number of intervention programs have been developed for parents who have a substance abuse problem. There have also been a number of interventions that have been developed for children who have at least one parent with a substance abuse problem. However, it remains unclear how we can best mitigate the negative effects that parental substance abuse has on children due to the scarcity of evaluations that utilize rigorous methodologies such as experimental designs. The purpose of this study is to review randomized controlled trials of intervention programs targeting parents with substance abuse problems and/or children with at least one parent with a substance abuse problem in order to identify programs that show some promise in improving the behavioral and mental health outcomes of children affected by parental substance abuse. Four randomized controlled trials that met our eligibility criteria were identified using major literature search engines. The findings from this review suggest that interventions that focus on improving parenting practices and family functioning may be effective in reducing problems in children affected by parental substance abuse. However, further research utilizing rigorous methodologies are needed in order to identify other successful interventions that can improve the outcomes of these children long after the intervention has ended.

Keywords: RCT, family, interventions

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