The researchers explain that a close family member’s drinking habit may have a more negative impact than that of friends or more distantly related family members.
“Within the last 10 years, there has been an expansion of research on consequences that extend beyond the drinker,” wrote the study authors.
“Although some studies show that harm because of strangers’ drinking may be more prevalent, harms caused by close relations, such as household family members and friends, may be more severe and distressing.”
Most previous studies relied on surveys in which adults reported on the harm caused to children in their own home. Obviously, this type of research has inherent flaws, as many will underreport such harm. The new study relied on records such as those from hospitals, making it a “registers-based study.”
“Registers are able to easily link immediate family members and follow individuals over extended periods of time to study long-term outcomes,” said study co-author Julie Brummer of Aarhus University in Denmark.
“Particularly in the Nordic region, there are register data across many domains, including physical and mental health – areas where we suspect we may see harms to family members.”
The potential negative impacts from a heavily drinking parent include mental health issues, infant or childhood mortality, and a greater likelihood of being arrested.
Dr. Anne-Marie Laslett of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research in Australia agreed with the results of the new study, as well as the techniques involved in reaching those results.
“The article by Brummer and associates points toward a wider scope in which register data sets can contribute to documenting, investigating, and prevention planning for harms from others’ drinking,” said Dr. Laslett. “Mining them will improve our understanding of how alcohol’s harms to others can be reduced.”