Justin Welby: Having An Alcoholic Parent Is One Of The Most Disruptive Experiences A Child Can Have

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin WelbyReuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out about his experience as the child of an alcoholic, describing it as 'one of the most disruptive experiences' a child could have.

'One of the things I most missed was the company of others who understood the issue,' says Archbishop Justin Welby in a report today.

The Archbishop writes of his time as the child of a parent who abused alcohol in the foreword to manifesto launched by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics.

Welby's mother, Jane, is an alcoholic who has now been sober for many years, as was the man he believed for most of his life to be his father, Gavin Welby. His mother spoke out about her history with the illness after it emerged that his true father was in fact Sir Anthony Montague Browne, private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill, with whom his mother had a brief relationship. 

Welby writes: 'We all know that having a parent who abuses alcohol is one of the most disruptive experiences for any child and leads frequently to long-term effects in one's self confidence, one's capacity to relate, and even for some people in their own relation to alcohol itself.

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'My experience, whether easier or more difficult than that of others, was fairly difficult... One of the things I most missed was the company of others who understood the issue.

'We are never ourselves when we are solitary, but in all of human history and community it has invariably been the case that it is in relationship that we become most fully what we are called to be, provided that relationship is healthy.'

The report analyses the plight of the one in five children in the UK that lives with a parent who drinks too much – more than 2.5 million children. It describes them as the country's 'innocent victims of drink'.

Compared to other children, children of alcoholics are twice as likely to experience difficulties at school, three times more likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop eating disorders, the manifesto says.

'Worst of all, children of alcoholics are also four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves – there is a cycle of alcoholism cascading down the generations. We have to break the cycle of this terrible disease – and that starts by breaking the silence around Britain's biggest secret scandal.'

The report paints a 'shocking' picture of support for children of alcoholics, stating that none of the local authorities that responded to a survey has a strategy to support children of alcoholics, that almost none is increasing the drug and substance abuse treatment budget in spite of increases in alcohol-related hospital admissions and many are actually cutting treatment budgets.

'The hidden stigma attached to children of alcoholics typically means that they suffer in silence. This needs to change,' the report says.

Watch Labour MP Liam Byrne, chair of the group and whose own father struggled with alcohol, talk about the importance of the issue here:

There are 12-step programmes similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, Adult Children Of Alcoholics for grown-up children, and Alaateen, for those who are still children, of alcoholics.

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