Increased availability of alcohol linked to maltreatment of children

November 21, 2022

1 min read

Disclosures: This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


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Having one or more off-premises alcohol outlets in a census tract was linked with a 13.5% increase in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in a single year, researchers reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Bridget Freisthler, PhDa professor and associate dean of research at Ohio State University’s College of Social Work, and colleagues assessed US Census block groups in Sacramento, California, over three time periods to estimate whether levels of alcohol use per capita was related to measures of child abuse and neglect.

Alcohol bottles and person holding one of them
Having one or more off-premises alcohol outlets in a census tract was linked with a 13.5% increase in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in a single year. Source: Adobe Stock

“The relationship between the alcohol environment and child abuse and neglect is complex,” Freisthler said in a press release from Ohio State. “Individual interventions to reduce substance use will not completely solve the problem without addressing the issue of alcohol supply.”

Freisthler and colleagues assessed 326 census blocks over three time points: 1999, 2001 and 2003. Market potentials were created for alcohol use among those aged 18 to 29 years, as younger parents are more likely to be involved with child protective services, they wrote. Alcohol use patterns were estimated through surveys completed by Sacramento residents.

The researchers found that higher alcohol use potentials are related to more children entering foster care due to drinking-related concerns by a parent or caregiver (RR, 1.032; 95% CI, 1.013-1.051).

Neighborhoods with higher total volume of alcohol per people aged 18 to 29 years had more foster care entries when the authors used the number of substantiations as the denominator (RR, 1.012; 95% CI, 1.0001-1.023). However, this was not related to foster care entries with alcohol abuse as a concern as a subset of all entries.

“These stores that sell alcohol are placed in neighborhoods where, for example, they have more young people who also tend to drink more,” Freisthler said in the release. “It perpetuates a cycle in which a population — young adults — that tends to drink more is given easier access to alcohol, which leads to more drinking. And the end result is more child maltreatment.”

Reference:

Local alcohol availability related to child maltreatment. https://news.osu.edu/local-alcohol-availability-related-to-child-maltreatment/. Published Nov. 21, 2022. Accessed Nov. 21, 2022.

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