Drink Tank

One in ten children harmed by adults’ drinking

Every year leading alcohol and other drug researchers and healthcare professionals from Australia and around the world gather for the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) Conference.

The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) – a joint initiative of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), the Victorian Department of Health, Turning Point, and the University of Melbourne – once again showcased its valuable contributions to alcohol policy research at this years APSAD Conference in Adelaide.

Dr Anne-Marie Laslett, a senior public health research fellow with CAPR, presented on how alcohol negatively impacts people around the drinker including children. Here she shares her preliminary findings with Drink Tank.


At least one in ten families report that children from across the globe have been physically hurt, verbally abused, exposed to domestic violence or left unsupervised because of another’s drinking.

This finding is the result of an analysis of data from four international Alcohol’s Harm To Others (HTO) surveys conducted between 2008 and 2013. It showed that 14% of families in Vietnam, 13% of families in Thailand, 12% of families in Australia and 11% of families in Ireland report that their children have been negatively affected by others’ drinking.

The most commonly reported harm was verbal abuse. The number of families reporting children being yelled at, criticised or otherwise verbally abused as a result of someone’s drinking was 11.1 percent in Thailand, 9.2 per cent in Ireland, 8.7 per cent in Australia and 7.5 per cent in Thailand.

In some cases, the alcohol-related harms to children escalated from verbal to physical violence. In Vietnam 3 per cent of the families surveyed reported that a child had been physically hurt because of someone’s drinking. In this respect Vietnam was closely followed by Ireland (2.8%), then Thailand (1.7%) and Australia (1.4%).

In Thailand 7.45 per cent of families reported a child witnessing serious violence in the home because of someone’s drinking, followed by Vietnam (6.06%), Ireland (4.85%) and Australia (3%).

When considering the full extent of harm to others, it’s also important to take into account any unintended harm resulting from acts of negligence. 6.5 per cent of families in Vietnam reported children had been left in an unsupervised or unsafe situation because of another’s drinking, followed by Ireland (5.3%), Thailand (3.6%) and Australia (3.5%).

These findings are significant, highlighting how alcohol negatively impacts people around the drinker including children.

In Australia it is estimated that there are 20,000 reported cases of child abuse each year. Children are being harmed in a number of different ways ranging from verbal abuse to physical abuse.

With research demonstrating that one in ten children is being affected by the drinking of others, we need to be looking at what can be done in this area to reduce these alcohol-related harms.

Dr Anne-Marie Laslett first presented the preliminary findings of ‘The problems experienced by children of drinkers in Ireland, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam: Similar experiences of worlds apart?’, the full paper of which is forthcoming, at the 2014 APSAD Conference held in Adelaide on Monday 10 November.

Anne-Marie Laslett

Dr Anne-Marie Laslett is a social, epidemiological and public health research fellow with the Centre for Alcohol Policy and Research (CAPR). She has worked in the area of alcohol and drug epidemiology at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre for the past 17 years, joining CAPR in 2008. She currently directs the award-winning project entitled, 'The Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others'. Her research on the project has examined harms from others’ drinking both as reported in general population survey respondents and as recorded in the caseloads of social and health response agencies. In particular, in 2011/12, Anne-Marie’s research has focused on a study of alcohol’s involvement in child abuse, using data from the Victorian Child Protection System and the national Alcohol’s harm to others survey. This research for her PhD has been supported by a Sidney Myer Fund and ARF PhD scholarship. She is also a co-investigator and technical advisor to the World Health Organization/Thai Health International Collaborative Research Project on ‘The Harm to others from drinking’. Dr Laslett originally graduated as a dentist, and went on to complete degrees as a Master of Preventive and Community Dentistry (Oral Epidemiology) and a Master of Public Health.

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