Parental Problem Drinking and Child Social Behavior: Pathways of Risk through Family Dysfunction

Belle F. Scott, Peggy S. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been very little research on children’s social problems, and no known research on child prosocial behavior, in the context of parental problem drinking (PPD). The present study examines direct and indirect (via marital conflict and harsh parenting) associations between PPD and children’s asocial behavior, social exclusion, and prosocial behavior. Participants were 457 predominantly white and middle class or higher parents (271 mothers) of children between the ages of 5 and 18 (M age = 8.43; SD = 3.23), who participated in an online survey. Data were analyzed with structural equation modeling, and all models controlled for child sex, age, and family financial status. Mother problem drinking was directly related to children’s greater asocial behavior. Indirect pathways were also observed from mother and father problem drinking to greater marital conflict, more harsh parenting, and greater child insecurity, to greater child asocial behavior, greater social exclusion, and less prosocial behavior. However, one aspect of child insecurity—involvement in marital conflict—was associated with greater child prosocial behavior. Findings improve knowledge about the mechanisms of risk associated with children’s exposure to PPD and expand understanding of the adverse child outcomes to include social problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3200-3212
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Marital conflict
  • Parental problem drinking
  • Parenting
  • Security
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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