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Home > Exposure to illicit drug use and alcoholism among 9-year-old Irish children.

Pike, Brigid (2010) Exposure to illicit drug use and alcoholism among 9-year-old Irish children. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 33, Spring 2010 .

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On 7 December 2009 the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD, launched the first major report from Growing Up in Ireland, the national longitudinal study of children, tracking the lives of over 8,500 nine-year-olds. The data were collected between September 2007 and June2008.1  

The nine-year-old cohort was selected through the primary school network. A random sample of schools was drawn and, subject to the school’s participation, age-eligible children in those schools and their families were invited to participate. The study included a wide range of perspectives, with information being recorded from parents, teachers, principals and carers, and the ‘study child’ himself or herself. Aspects explored included the children’s living situations; experiences of family life; state of health; use of health care services; emotional health and wellbeing; education; peer relationships; activities; and neighbourhood and community settings.
 
With regard to the children’s experiences of stressful life, their mothers were presented with a list of 13 potentially stressful events and asked to report which ones, if any, their child had experienced. Just over 78% of children were reported to have experienced some form of stressful life event; 4% had experienced drug taking/alcoholism in their immediate family. As the following table shows, in comparison with children from two-parent families, children from single-parent families were more likely to have experienced drug taking/alcoholism in their immediate family.

With regard to the quality of their neighbourhood environments, the mothers were asked to rate four items on a four-point scale from very common to not at all common. Overall, rubbish and litter lying about appeared to be the most pervasive problem, with mothers of 34% of nine-year-olds reporting this as being very common or fairly common in their local area. This was followed by people being drunk or taking drugs in public (15%), vandalism and deliberate damage to property (15%) and homes and gardens in bad condition (10%). There was a strong relationship between family social class and perceived quality of the local area, with those in the lower social class categories being much more likely to report unfavourable physical conditions in their neighbourhood. For example, those in the semi-skilled/unskilled manual category were more likely than those in the professional/managerial group to report that people being drunk or taking drugs in public was very common or fairly common (22% compared to 9%). The researchers also found a difference between urban and rural residents in terms of the quality of the neighbourhood environment, with respondents in urban areas being roughly twice as likely as their rural counterparts to report that people being drunk or taking drugs in public was very or fairly common. 

The next wave of this longitudinal study is due to be conducted when the children in the cohort study reach the age of 13.  

 

1. Williams J, Greene S, Doyle E, Harris E, Layte R, McCoy S et al. (2009) Growing up in Ireland: national longitudinal study. The lives of 9-year-olds, child cohort. Report 1. Dublin: Stationery Office.

 

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