Having a parent addicted to heroin and being exposed to substance abuse and its effects can be detrimental to children. But a new study found that “girls are four times more resilient than boys” in overcoming the adverse events that are caused by exposure to heroin addiction in their households.
Adverse events refer to having a parent that is addicted to heroin, the occurrence of mental illness in the family, domestic violence, a parent getting incarcerated or dying. The study found that 70 percent of its young respondents have been exposed to at least one of these events. Only three percent of the subjects reported to not experiencing any of these events aside from having a parent or guardian dependent on opiates.
“These are very high-risk kids with at least one parent who is addicted to heroin,” says research scientist Martie Skinner of the University of Washington’s Social Development Group. Skinner is the lead author of the said study and explains resilience as the child’s ability to reach adulthood without substance abuse or being in the wrong side of the law as well as being able to work or stay in school just like any normal individual would. While these sound like ordinary expectations, Skinner and his team found that only 30 adults of the 125 subjects were able to meet them.
She noted that females appeared to be more resilient mainly due to the fact that men were more likely to face criminal
The study used data collected from young adults who belonged to families recruited through Seattle-based methadone clinics. They were first interviewed between 1991 and 1993 and then again in 2005 and 2006.
Factors that can promote or interfere with a child’s resiliency against detrimental events associated with drug abuse where also identified. Those who exhibited lower childhood scores on certain behaviors such as being fearful, nervous or depressed as well as those that didn’t exhibit pronounced characteristics such as being temperamental or cruel were more likely to be able to overcome the lure of substance abuse as young adults.
According to Skinner, the study serves to emphasize just how vulnerable children can be. “It also indicates that there are early warning signs, and if children get the attention they need to meet early problems, it can reduce the burden on society later on in caring for them.”
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