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Module XAE-3037:
Substance Abuse in Families

Module Facts

Run by School of Education and Human Development

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Nia Young

Overall aims and purpose

Estimates suggest that more than 30% of children and young people live in a family affected by substance misuse or abuse. As a result, most people who work with children and young people are likely to have to deal with this issue at some time. This module aims to prepare students to work with and for children and young people who are experiencing difficulties related to drug use. Whether the issue is the health of a binge-drinking mother, caring for a heroin-dependent father or navigating the social pressures to use substances themselves, this module considers the impact on the child. The opinions and experiences of children and young people are explored and the module will allow students to understand how addiction happens and how it can shape a child's development and experience. We'll consider how legal and illegal drugs are presented to children in the media and through society, looking at popular music and children's television. The module will also look at the stigma surrounding substance abuse within the family and give students an opportunity to reflect on and develop their own position concerning this which will give a solid foundation for their approach to working with families in the future.

Course content

This module will primarily analyse the psycho-sociological aspects of substance dependence in the family context to provide a thorough examination of:

  • Why people abuse substances
  • Pregnancy & smoking, drinking and drug use
  • What happens to children when parents take drugs
  • Drinking and the care system
  • Young carers and substance dependent parents
  • Living with addicted siblings
  • Children who abuse substances
  • Drugs, the law and society
  • Drugs and fame.

Assessment Criteria


A satisfactory understanding of current theories of addiction, including an ability to critically discuss the short and long-term outcomes for children living with substance abuse; a basic awareness of the legal and social consequences of substance abuse and of the professionals and strategies used to help children living with substance abuse.


A good understanding of current theories of addiction, including an ability to critically discuss the short and long-term outcomes for children living with substance abuse; a sound awareness of the legal and social consequences of substance abuse and of the professionals and strategies used to help children living woth substance abuse.


A comprehensive understanding of current theories of addiction, including an ability to critically discuss the short and long-term outcomes for children living with substance abuse; a thorough awareness of the legal and social consequences of substance abuse and of the professionals and strategies used to help children living with substance abuse.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of current theories concerning addiction to a variety of substances and how these apply to children and young people.

  2. Critically understand the impact of parental addiction and substance misuse on the physical and emotional health of children and their relationship with their parents.

  3. Understand the research based, likely, long term outcomes for children of addicted parents and critically evaluate the provisions made to help children and young people whose parents misuse substances.

  4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the wider implications of substance misuse for children and people, including social attitudes, legal aspects, family dynamics and peer inflences.

  5. Identify the agencies and professionals that can work with and help identify the needs of children who are themselves or whose parents are misusing substances.

  6. Reflect critically on their own learning experiences and their relationship to their own ideas and opionions about children and substance misuse.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Blog and response discussion

This assignment asks students to write 3 succinct blogs about substances and childhood. Students are free to choose the specific topic but blogs must draw on literature to present a clear argument. Each student will also respond to peers' blogs with additional information from the literature. This assignment is designed to allow students to demonstrate the associated learning outcomes while also developing the following key professional skills:

  1. Developing and presenting a logical, evidence-based argument
  2. Writing succinctly and professionally.
  3. Providing useful feedback based on critical consideration of another's argument.
ROLE PLAY Court Scene: Expert Witness

This assignment allows you to practice giving your expert opinion on the best way to support a child in a formal setting. Students will be asked to summarise the conclusions of their Case Study assignment as though making recommendations to court. They will then be asked to elaborate on these in response to questions from the tutors. This assignment allows students to develop confidence in their ability to give an evidence-based recommendation while also developing the following professional skills:

  • Professional, verbal communication
  • Making use of knowledge and understanding in response to questions
  • Presentation and interpersonal skills
CASE STUDY Expert witness report on case study

Students will be given a case file concerning a child living with parental substance abuse who's situation is being considered at court. Students must review the evidence and write a report giving their expert opinion on the likely outcomes for the child and their judgement as to the best course of action to secure a positive future for the child. This assignment will allow students to consider the implications of family substance abuse on a child's experiences while also developing the following key professional skills:

  1. Making use of the most up-to-date information to predict outcomes.
  2. Recognising that outcomes depend on individual circumstances.
  3. Using reliable information to make a plan to protect a child.
  4. Give a professional, evidence-based opinion on a realistic case.

Teaching and Learning Strategy


11 @ 2 hours/week

Private study

167 hours to be used in reading, completing activities in preparation for lectures and writing assignments.


11 @ 1 hours/week


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • reflect upon a range of psychological sociological health historical and philosophical perspectives and consider how these underpin different understandings of babies and young children and childhood
  • apply multiple perspectives to early childhood issues recognising that early childhood studies involves a range of research methods theories evidence and applications
  • integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in early childhood studies and recognise distinctive early childhood studies approaches to relevant issues
  • evaluate competing positions in relation to the construction of babies and young children and childhood by different subjects societal agents and time place and culture
  • constructively critique theories practice and research in the area of child development
  • demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the skills needed for different pedagogical approaches including: - the necessary depth and strength of relationships with individual children and children in groups and the facilitation of the building of relationships with and between children - the formation and promotion of mutually respectful relationships with families colleagues other professionals and communities
  • critically explore examine and evaluate the significance of the cultural historical and contemporary features of various policies institutions and agencies in regard to babies young children and childhood
  • lead support and work collaboratively with others and demonstrate an understanding of working effectively in teams with parents carers and other professionals 11
  • demonstrate an understanding of how to plan for and where appropriate implement meeting and promoting children's health well-being protection and safety and the conditions that enable them to flourish
  • produce critical arguments for improvements to multi-agency and multiprofessional practices for babies and young children

Courses including this module