In the January 2000 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, an article appears with new estimates of the number of children of alcoholics. Using data from the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiological Survey, the NIAAA authors found that 15% of all U.S. children were currently exposed to alcohol abuse and/or dependence in the family (which includes any adults living in the household), and 43% of all children were exposed to someone who, during their lifetime, satisfied a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence.
Assuming that the best estimate lies between these two extremes, it was determined that approximately 1 in 4 children in the US is exposed to alcohol abuse and/or dependence in the family at some point before age 18.
This is just the latest in a long line of studies on this issue. The first estimates of the number of children of alcoholics were developed in 1974 by Booz-Allen and Hamilton, who suggested extrapolating national survey data on problem drinking to the U.S. population and multiplying the resulting estimate of adult problem drinkers by the ratio of adults to children in the general population.
It should also be kept in mind that the data do not include alcoholics who are in the military, institutionalized, homeless, or who may have refused to participate in the survey. Given these caveats, it was estimated that there were approximately 6,600,000 children of alcoholics under the age of 18 years in the U.S. at that time.
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