International Children of Alcoholics Week

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This week  (14 – 20 February 2021) is International Children of Alcoholics week (#COAWeek2021), founded and organised by UK charity NACOA (National Association for Children of Alcoholics).

The annual campaign raises awareness about how people are affected by their parent’s problem alcohol use, and the supports that are available.

This year, the week-long event includes talks with an international group of experts, researchers and leaders for children affected by their parent’s drinking or a similar substance, and an evening of poetry and literature, written for and about children of alcoholics.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) has in recent years begun campaigning on the issue of parental problem alcohol use, and in January 2019 launched the Silent Voices initiative.

We know from independent research that in Ireland 1 in 6 (in the UK this figure is 1 in 5, in the USA it is 1 in 7) children live in a home with problem parental alcohol use.[1]

This is an adverse childhood experience that can have devastating consequences.[2] NACOA’s own research investigating the problems of adult children of alcoholics found that they were more likely to consider suicide, have eating disorders, drug addiction, and be in trouble with the police, as well as having above average alcohol dependency and mental health problems.[3]

AAI’s Silent Voices campaign aims to break the silence of this impact by highlighting it across a range of platforms and with a wide range of audiences from the public, to politicians, to the media, educators and anyone who works with vulnerable children and families.

Since the initiative launched AAI has:

  • Established a platform, Shared Voices where adult children can share their experiences anonymously. Recently two of these stories were animated which give an illustration of some of the trauma experienced.
  • Held workshops and meetings with a range of interested organisations and individuals. From this we developed our manifesto of strategic actions needed to address the issues in this area.
  • Collaborated with academics from University College Cork to explore the University College Cork around the experiences of ACOAs as indicated in the Shared Voices and with other interviewees. Expanded this research work into a detailed paper around education Met with senior government ministers and policy makers.
  • Advocated for the introduction of better data sharing between police and schools so as to provide immediate support for children who have experienced domestic violence.
  • Garnered significant media coverage of this issue with over 100 items in national and regional media as well as our dedicated Silent Voices social media handle and launched a podcast featuring the founders of the initiative discussing the campaign.


[1] Hope A (2014). Alcohol’s harm to others in Ireland. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

See also: National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD)‘Parental Substance Misuse: Addressing its Impact on Children’.

[2] Felitti, V.J., Anda, R.F., Nordenberg, D, et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study. American Journal Preventative Medicine. 1998; 14: 245-258; Ashton, K., Bellis, M. & Hughes, (2016) Adverse childhood experiences and their association with health-harming behaviours and mental wellbeing in the Welsh adult population: a national cross-sectional survey; Bellis, M. A., Hughes, K., Leckenby, N., Jones, L., Baban, A., Kachaeva, M., Terzic, N. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences and associations with health-harming behaviours in young adults: surveys in eight eastern European countries. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92(9), 641–655. doi:10.2471/BLT.13.129247 2 Gance-Cleveland, B., Mays, M.Z., Steffen, A. (2008). Association of adolescent physical and emotional health with perceived severity of parental substance abuse. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing;13(1): 15-25. Winqvist, S., Jokelainen, J., Luukinen, H., Hillbom, M. (2007). Parental alcohol misuse is a powerful predictor for the risk of traumatic brain injury in childhood. Brain Inj.;21(10):1079-85

[3] Nacoa, Professor Martin Callingham, Survey of children of alcohol-dependent parents.