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New research shows alcohol is damaging Australian families

17 September 2012

New research from The Salvation Army, as part of its Alcohol Awareness Week initiative, reveals 4.2 million people (22%) say they know families where they think children are not being properly cared for and 2.9 million (16%) say they know of families where children may be unsafe because of someone’s alcohol abuse.

This research released today, to mark the beginning of The Salvation Army’s Alcohol Awareness campaign, reveals a deeply disturbing picture of what is happening in some Australian families because of alcohol use and abuse.

'It is very clear there are large numbers of people out there who know families where children aren’t being cared for properly, according to them, because of alcohol,' said Major Brad Halse, The Salvation Army's spokesman for Alcohol Awareness Week."  

'To think that a child feels unsafe due to the alcohol use of a family member is very concerning. Alcohol is the most widely used and widely accepted drug in today’s society and yet we know people will often drink harmfully – without even considering the impacts.  As a result, the amount of alcohol that is consumed and the effects that this has on children, families and friends, are not always taken into account,' he said.

The research further revealed that 2.6 million people (14%) said the use of alcohol had caused problems with other family members in their immediate or extended family in the last 12 months (either sometimes, often or always).

'When an individual has a problem with alcohol, it affects many people around them, work colleagues, friends, the community and most importantly their family and in particular their children. Many people who seek assistance from The Salvation Army state that alcohol has been a central or contributing factor to their situation,' said Major Halse.

Australia’s leading Child and Adolescent psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, is also supporting the Salvos Alcohol Awareness Week and says the social and emotional scars from alcohol abuse in families can last a lifetime. 

'I am concerned for many reasons. The role of a parent is to provide their children with an environment where they feel safe, valued and cared for. Parents who have issues with alcohol may find this difficult and as a result, the child suffers.  There can be a very big domino effect and children’s routines aren’t followed because of issues with alcohol and kids are placed in what amounts to unsafe environments.

'Children from families where there are drinking issues may experience low self-esteem, behavioural issues, emotional problems, difficulty with social interaction and maintaining relationships with peers,' said Carr-Gregg.

Ian Dalton - Executive Director of Australian Parents Council – said: 'Parents are the primary educators of their children and the examples they provide to their kids have a significant effect on their children’s life choices and behaviours. Any time that adults use alcohol in front of children they influence the choices those children will make later on, so it is important parents are aware of their responsibility to provide a positive example.'

The message for Alcohol Awareness Week this year is clear, says Major Halse: 'We are simply asking people to consider their drinking choices and to reflect on how their abuse of alcohol affects themselves and their families.  We acknowledge there are many Australians who are drinking responsibly.  However, as this new research shows, many children are ultimately paying the cost due to alcohol abuse by a family member/s.'

Alcohol Awareness Week is an initiative by The Salvation Army designed to stimulate more discussion and debate in the community around the social impacts of alcohol abuse. The campaign also urges people to consider their drinking choices and the impact this is having on themselves, their friends, families and children.

Each week, The Salvation Army assists more than 500 people who find themselves addicted to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about addiction services or if you know someone facing addiction, please call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58) or visit salvationarmy.org.au

The study conducted by Roy Morgan Research was a random, national telephone survey of 1,509 Australians aged 14 and over about alcohol consumption and its impact on children and families.

Key findings of the new Roy Morgan research include:

  • 4.2 million people aged 14 plus (22%) say that they know families where they think that children are not being properly cared for because of someone’s alcohol abuse.
  • 2.9 million people aged 14 plus (16%) say that they know families where they think that children may be unsafe because of someone’s alcohol abuse.
  • 2.0 million people aged 14 plus (11%) say that in the last 12 months the use of alcohol had ‘sometimes’ caused problems with other family members in their or their extended family. Another 2% said ‘often’ and another 1% said ‘always’, making a total of 2.6 million people (14%) saying that in the last 12 months, in their family or extended family, someone’s use of alcohol had caused problems with other family members.
  • 2.1 million people aged 14 plus (11%) say that someone in their family or extended family had been unreliable to family or friends due to alcohol use in the last 12 months.
  • 3.1 million (16%) of Australians aged 14 plus indicated that alcohol had caused some form of disruption within their immediate or extended family within the last 12 months.

Research details: Roy Morgan Research conducted a telephone survey of a national random sample of 1,509 Australians aged 14 and over 7th and 8th August, and the 14th and 15th August. The survey was conducted as part of Roy Morgan Research’s regular telephone omnibus survey, CATIBus, and was commissioned by The Salvation Army. 

For further information please contact:

Stephanie Gourd (Media and Research Coordinator)
The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory
Tel: 03 8878 2441  Mob: 0458 602 592
Territorial Communications & Fundraising Department, 95-99 Railway Road, Blackburn VIC 3130