The effects of psychoactive substance abuse are not limited to the user, but extend to the entire family system, with children of substance abusers being particularly at risk. This meta-analysis attempted to quantify the longitudinal relationship between parental alcohol, tobacco, and drug use and child well-being, investigating variation across a range of substance and well-being indices and other potential moderators. We performed a literature search of peer-reviewed, English language, longitudinal observational studies that reported outcomes for children aged 0 to 18 years. In total, 56 studies, yielding 220 dependent effect sizes, met inclusion criteria. A multilevel random-effects model revealed a statistically significant, small detriment to child well-being for parental substance abuse over time (r = .15). Moderator analyses demonstrated that the effect was more pronounced for parental drug use (r = .25), compared with alcohol use (r = .13), tobacco use (r = .13), and alcohol use disorder (r = .14). Results highlight a need for future studies that better capture the effect of parental psychoactive substance abuse on the full breadth of childhood well-being outcomes and to integrate substance abuse into models that specify the precise conditions under which parental behavior determines child well-being.
Registration: PROSPERO CRD42017076088