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The research literature is filled with studies on children of alcoholics young and old. Unfortunately, much less data is available on children who grow up with parents addicted to drugs other than alcohol. Some writers have speculated that children of substance abusers are similar in many ways to children of alcoholics with the exception of the illegal nature of the parent's drug of choice.
?We believe the differences are more profound. We know that the following factors affect how children experience parental addiction ? to alcohol or other drugs:
Legality is a major issue because it indicates social acceptance, and carries with it less shame. At the same time, since alcohol is legal and advertised, it can be confusing for a child who sees behaviors promoted that conflict with the child's reality.
?Parents addicted to illegal drugs generally ascribe to less mainstream values. For example, they may:
Participate in a drug subculture
Disdain/profound fear of authority
Do things "the easy way"
Focus on money and materialism
Try to "beat the system"
Want to "get one over" ? get away with things
Fail to take responsibility for their actions
Self-centered or self-gratifying behavior
Be involved in illegal activities such as theft, drug sales, violence, and prostitution
These attitudes are the most familiar models children have when they live with parents addicted to illegal drugs. These attitudes are not only modeled for the children, they become part of the family's culture and norms. Ultimately, children may begin to ascribe to these same beliefs.
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