Alcohol and child maltreatment in Australia through the windows of child protection and a national survey
AuthorLaslett, Anne-Marie Louise
AffiliationMelbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsLaslett, A. L. (2013). Alcohol and child maltreatment in Australia through the windows of child protection and a national survey. PhD thesis, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2013 Dr. Anne-Marie Louise Laslett
This thesis describes the adverse effects of others’ drinking on children as viewed through two different windows. The first focuses on children in the Victorian child protection system. It examines how many, and in what ways children have been affected by the drinking of their carers as recorded by child protection workers between 2001 and 2005 in routine electronic databases. In the second window, national survey data are used to estimate the prevalence of households where children have been affected by someone else’s drinking in the last year, using questions that stem from key definitions of types of child maltreatment. This researchi) documents the extent of alcohol involvement in child protection cases in Victoria,ii) explores and defines risk factors for child protection outcomes, including the role of alcohol, comorbidities and socio-economic factors,iii) assesses the number of Australian households where children have been affected by someone else’s drinking, andiv) compares the size and social location of alcohol-related harms to children in the child protection system and the general population Carer alcohol abuse was reported in a third of all substantiated child protection cases across Victoria. Alcohol was implicated in 27% of physical, 12% of sexual, 39% of emotional and 35% of neglect cases. As further intervention was required, the percentage of cases that involved alcohol increased – from 25% of cases that were substantiated but required no further intervention, to 42% of cases that involved court orders. Alcohol abuse and multiple other “risk factors’, including likely other drug abuse, carer mental ill-health, unstable housing, low income levels and single parent family composition, were associated with the greater likelihood of receipt of more serious child protection interventions and repeated experiences of child maltreatment. Alcohol-related harm to children in the general population was also measured. One in five (22%) respondents or Australian families reported that their children had been affected in at least some way by others’ drinking in the past year. One per cent reported a child being physically hurt, 9% reported verbal abuse, 3% reported exposure to domestic violence and 3% reported a child being left alone or unsupervised because of others’ drinking. These alcohol-related harms to children were prevalent across the socio-economic strata examined. A greater proportion of alcohol-related harm to children in the community exists in middle and high income groups, although there was a higher prevalence of more severe community harm to children in the lower income group. The vast majority of cases in the child protection system were from disadvantaged groups. This suggests there is underestimation of the risks of others’ drinking for children in the general population, and that government child protection service responses are driven by closer scrutiny of low income groups as well as greater need. The two windows of the study indicate that alcohol-related harms to children from others’ drinking are prevalent. To prevent and minimise further harm to children from their carers’ and others’ heavy drinking, alcohol and child protection policy responses are required.
Keywordsalcohol; child protection; child abuse and neglect; survey research; harm to others
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