Substance use disorders (SUDs) within families affect everyone. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway website, children’s needs must be met and enacted by parents. In the case of parents with SUDs, these needs may not be their main priority, as the substance itself becomes the main source of importance to them. 

Who Is Responsible for Childcare?

Childcare may be shared within the family, encompassing parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but the primary care lies with the parents. However, in a family where a parent or both parents struggle with SUDs childcare may fall to the grandparents, other family members, or even the oldest child.

Children should not be responsible for having the primary responsibility of caring for their younger siblings. These children become “parentified,” although they lack the maturity, judgment, and experience to care for their siblings properly.

This responsibility also puts a psychological strain on the “parentified” child, causing them to have to grow up quickly and develop parental skills at extremely young ages. 

The Effects of Parenting Siblings on Children

Since children need to experience appropriate familial roles for proper development, when the family unit is affected by SUDs, these roles are skewed. Children who parent their siblings may end up dealing with feelings of anxiety, stress, and extreme responsibility.

The stress placed upon these children may also lead them on a path to substance use with drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, as they mature and age, they may feel the need to escape the dysfunction within their households and engage in negative behaviors.

“Parentified” children may carry psychological issues into adulthood, which may manifest themselves in anxiety disorders, such as OCD. 

Are You Looking for Help?

Substance use disorders do not just affect the afflicted, but it permeates throughout the family unit. Children in households dealing with SUDs are at a greater risk of many negative issues, including child abuse and neglect.

Children who end up having to care for other siblings in place of parents with SUDs endure extreme responsibility and stress at young ages, which negatively affects their psychological development. Furthermore, the SUD may trickle down to the children as they try to find ways to cope with the dysfunction within their family


At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues.

No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness.

If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.