Middle childhood vulnerability to drugs and alcohol

Publication Date21 April 2020
Date21 April 2020
AuthorRob Ewin,Abi Reed,Lewis Powell
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
Middle childhood vulnerability
to drugs and alcohol
Rob Ewin, Abi Reed and Lewis Powell
Purpose There are identified problemsfacing law enforcement in the correct approach to childhood
drug and alcohol use at street level which can cause aggression, developmental, psychological
problems and family conflict (Maher and Dixon, 1999). Childhood exposure to drugs and alcohol can
encouragecriminal activity, anti-social conduct and increasedchild-to-parent conflict (Brooket al., 1992;
Reinherzet al., 2000; Coogan, 2011; McElhone, 2017).
Design/methodology/approach The purpose of this study is to explore middle-childhood (11-15
years) experiences of drugs and alcohol through a survey to determine the earliestopportunity for the
involvementof services based on the experiences of children.
Findings The key findings are alcohol consumption in middle childhood is supported by parental
alcohol provision; those in middle childhood are most likely to consume alcohol at home and drugs at
street level (any place away from home including school, young clubs,open public space and parks);
children in middlechildhood use mainly cannabis to experience euphoria,minimize childhood problems
and to fulfill acquisitive desire;and late childhood shows movement away from street-leveldrug use to
drug use in private spaces with friends and increased levels of experiential or social drinking, within
spacesshared by larger social groups.
Practical implications The authors propose that a health-orientated early help model in middle
childhood should be adopted, with support such as community- and school-based child and parental
drug education; wider information sharing between schools, policing and health authorities at an early
stage to support a contextualsafeguarding approach; and recognition and recordingpractices around
middle childhood which is an acute phase for children to become involved in drug and alcohol
Originality/value Children’s drug use in middlechildhood is often not recorded, and the problem can
be associated with simple ill-parenting approaches. The authors believethat little was known about the
spacesand occurrence of drug and alcohol use in middlechildhood.
Keywords Society, Drugs, Alcohol, Parental influence, County lines, Child-to-parent conflict,
Childhood aggression, Childhood development
Paper type Research paper
Middle childhood, crime, health and education
An early exposure to drugs and alcohol, prior to the age of 15 middle childhood,
contributes significantly to adulthood substance abuse and parental, or guardianship,
distress surrounding a child’s involvement in sexually risky behavior, poor educational
attainment and propensity to engage criminal activity (Odgers et al.,2008). Early research
(Streissguth et al., 1990;Coles and Platzman, 1993) draws attention to the effects of pre-
natal exposure to alcohol and its direct effect on the future learning potential of affected
children. There has been steady research attention to the effects of pre-natal alcohol
consumption and its links to specified learning difficulties, such as attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (Coles et al., 1997). However, developing evidence as to the
presence of contributing factors to middle-childhood alcohol engagement remains an
important societal and research issue, especially in children between the ages of 11 and
Rob Ewin is based at
University of Cumbria,
Carlisle, UK and Cumbria
Police, Carlisle, UK.
Abi Reed is based at
Cumbria County Council,
Carlisle, UK. Lewis Powell is
based at Cumbria Police,
Carlisle, UK.
Received 19 December 2019
Revised 1 March 2020
Accepted 21 March 2020
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-12-2019-0074 VOL. 6 NO. 2 2020, pp. 169-182, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICAL RESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jPAGE 169

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