ChildLinks Issue 1: Alcohol and Families

Barnardos. (2003). ChildLinks Issue 1: Alcohol and Families.
The theme of this issue of ChildLinks is the misuse of alcohol in Ireland and its detrimental impact on children, young people and families. For many years the major focus of concern was on underage drinking and there can be no doubt that underage drinking is a real and increasing problem as indicated by recent research findings. ° Over half of Ireland's young people begin experimenting with alcohol before the age of 12. ° Half of girls and two-thirds of boys age 16 years old drink regularly. ° One-third of 16-year-olds report binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row) 3 or more times a month. However it also must be acknowledged that alcohol consumption in the adult population has increased significantly and Dr. Ann Hope provides a useful summary of the recent research data in her article "Protecting Children and Adolescents: Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full?" The Irish are drinking more than ever before, many adults drink excessively when they drink and the consumption of spirits has increased by over 51% mainly due to the successful marketing of ‘alcopops’. According to Dr. Hope the estimated cost of alcohol related problems to Irish society is €24 billion per annum, inclusive of health services, road accidents, social welfare payments, alcohol related crime and lost productivity. The €2.4 billion figure does not include the personal, emotional and financial hardship suffered by individuals and their families. Barnardos, as a leading provider of child and family support services, is only too well aware of the detrimental impact of alcohol misuse on children, young people and families. In December 2002 Barnardos launched the "Families Under the Influence" campaign which aims to change the deep-rooted and damaging culture of excessive drinking in Irish culture. As part of the campaign Barnardos has recently succeeded in getting all political parties to sign a pledge that they will always put the interests of children first in matters to do with alcohol. Other key recommendations of "Families Under the Influence" include: e An effective and enforced ban on alcohol advertising aimed at youth audiences. ° Substantial resources to fund a range of recreational facilities which would provide young people with real alternatives. ° The replacement of alcohol sponsorship of sports. ° A major review and public debate on the effectiveness of current under age drinking measures. In this issue of ChildLinks Dr Ann Hope provides an overview of the Department of Health and Children's perspective on alcohol and children. Dr Shane Butler provides a summary of recent research data and debates the problem of alcohol misuse in a social and cultural context. A member of Al-Anon provides interesting insights from personal experience and Kerri Smith and Sarah Meehan explore the issues from the perspective of a child care and family support service provider. Dr. Stephen Rowen presents an insight into the treatment model offered by the Rutland Centre and Dr. Hilda Loughran provides a useful outline of 3 major theoretical perspectives on alcohol problems. A recurring theme referred to by many of the contributors is the need for child care/child protection services and addiction specialists to collaborate. In particular Dr. Shane Butler argues for the education and training of child care professionals on the management of alcohol problems. It is hoped that this issue of ChildLinks will inform child care professionals and contribute to the ongoing debate on the problems of and solutions to the misuse of alcohol.