Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

July 2016Vol. 17, No. 5Improving Outcomes for Children Affected by Parental Substance Use

Children in homes where one or both parents have a substance use disorder are at risk for experiencing abuse, neglect, and related physical and emotional issues. Parental substance use also substantially increases the odds for adolescent drug use. An article in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation focuses on a study that performed a comparative literature review of controlled trials that examined various interventions targeting parents with substance use issues and/or children with at least one parent with a substance use disorder. The review used specific eligibility criteria to identify interventions that showed promise in improving the behavioral and mental health outcomes of affected children. Eligibility criteria included the following:

  • Study participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
  • The duration of the participant follow-up was at least 6 months after the completion of the intervention.
  • Participants who dropped out of the program were not excluded in the analyses.
  • The intervention was effective in improving at least one child outcome during the postintervention follow-up period.

The article addresses the impacts of prenatal drug exposure, substance use in the home, and parental incarceration on children and families. Using the prescribed eligibility criteria, the study identified and examined four interventions designed to reduce substance use while improving overall family functioning and parental relationships and skills:

  • Parents Under Pressure, a weekly in-home intervention that teaches parents child management skills and how to build effective relationships with spouses and children
  • Focus on Families, a program for families affected by methadone addiction, which includes parenting skills and home-based case management in addition to standard methadone treatment
  • Behavioral couples therapy (BCT), a series of 12 sessions focused on effective communication skills and positive behavioral modifications
  • Parenting skills with BCT, which includes parenting skills in addition to the communication and behavioral focus

While the authors emphasize that findings should be treated as very preliminary, the article concludes that interventions focused on improving family dynamics and parenting practices are most effective in improving outcomes in children impacted by parental substance use.

Access "Improving the Outcomes of Children Affected by Parental Substance Abuse: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials," by Stacy Calhoun, Emma Conner, Melodi Miller, and Nena Messina, Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 6, 2015, at