Connections between Poverty, Substance Abuse, and Child Abuse

The stories are heartbreaking; young children enduring painful physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their parents, and no one finding out about it until years later.  It has been suggested for a while now that poverty and substance abuse go hand in hand, and that many children that are abused are suffering at the hands of parents that abuse drugs or alcohol.

Substance Abuse and Poverty

The connection between substance abuse and poverty makes sense.  Those that get hooked on drugs or alcohol may lose their jobs because of it, or they spend all the money they do have to sustain the habit.  Many of these people might go on welfare, or use whatever means they can to survive, putting more and more money into the addiction.  If they have children, it is the children that also have to go without, and that may bear the brunt of their parent’s anger.

That is not to say that all addicts are poor or homeless and using welfare checks to buy drugs.   There are plenty of well-to-do individuals out there, trying to keep their addiction a secret, while making their way through their jobs every day.  It just becomes difficult over time to support a drug habit and keep a job at the same time.

Substance Abuse and Child Abuse

The connection between substance abuse and child abuse is not a big stretch either.  Addiction changes people’s minds, and often makes them irritable, irresponsible, and sometimes violent.  The poor child that gets in the way while a parent is feeling these things will definitely suffer.  Beatings, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and neglect are all common when a parent isn’t thinking straight   Children in homes like these learn to take care of themselves, learn to stay out of the way, and learn some pretty distorted social behavior.  Children that grow up with an abusive addict for a parent are more likely to have poor self image, self destructive behaviors, hidden fear, and greater risk of substance abuse themselves some day.


What should be done about those homes where a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol is abusing their children?  First of all, these homes need to be identified.  There have been numerous suggestions about how to go about doing this.  There are those that want to test everyone that receives a welfare check to make sure they are not using drugs, and there are those that want Child Protective Services to be restructured in order to catch more child abuse.  It may be the most helpful, however, to work to treat all parents that are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, and help them find good drug treatment options.  These parents should also be educated about child abuse and the damage it does.  With more awareness out there about the importance of a safe home for children, these kids can be spared a life of suffering.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.