A secondary education is important for young people to become successful as independent adults. Yet, young people leaving school without completing secondary education is a well-identified problem in many Western countries. This is an obstacle for their future as those without secondary education are at higher risk for unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.
A study published in the Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs examined the relationship between children’s exposure to parental alcohol problems and early school leaving in Denmark and Finland. Scientists used longitudinal administrative register data of children born in 1991 from both countries.
Effects of household alcohol problems on children
The study found the following:
- Children experiencing household alcohol problems had a higher risk of failing to attain a secondary education by age 21 years compared with their peers, in both countries.
- Children with maternal alcohol problems more often did not complete secondary education by the age of 21 years than those with paternal alcohol problems, in both countries.
- Comparatively, Danish children failed to get a secondary education due to household alcohol problems more than Finnish children.
- However, the risk of failing to get a secondary education due to household alcohol problems compared to other children was higher for Finnish children than Danish children.
Children in households with alcohol problems face accumulated issues
The study found that these children are likely to face other problems in households such as:
- Long-term financial difficulties,
- Low parental education,
- Higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and
- Divorced parents.
These factors partly mediated the effects of household alcohol problems on children. Household alcohol problems alone also had direct negative effects.
The study shows these children face accumulated risks leading to early school drop out.
Need to improve the lives of children in households with alcohol problems
A better education is the key to making sure vulnerable children who are exposed to alcohol problems in their households have better lives in the future. Therefore, healthcare, social work and education sectors should prioritize advancing education among vulnerable children. This would enable them to find a job or advance to higher education, thus helping them to become successful and independent adults.
It is important to identify and help households with alcohol problems early on by health and social services (daycare, school healthcare, primary healthcare) as well. This prevents children from facing difficulties growing up. The parent or guardian who is not using alcohol should also be supported to do parental tasks so that they can ensure the child’s well-being.