Debrielle T. Jacques


PhD Candidate | Developmental Psychology |University of Rochester

Addiction & The Family


A course on how and why parental or familial addiction impact human development across the lifespan


This is a truly aspirational course. Many children and adolescents are impacted by addiction among family members. Given the alarming prevalence of addiction and substance use disorders, chances are many of us know someone struggling with substances or behavioral addictions. 

Many courses on addiction cover important and interesting topics, such as the neurological and cognitive effects of addiction or how use becomes addiction. Few courses seem to focus on the psychosocial effects of addiction, namely surrounding family dynamics and child development. Courses may cover the longitudinal nature of addiction (e.g. how substance use disorders develop) but don't really discuss how addiction affects individual, interpersonal, or family development over time. This course would introduce students to the following concepts and questions:
  • What factors influence how and why parents may develop substance use disorders (e.g. parenting stress, developmental histories, developmental risk and developmental psychopathology)?
  • What the social costs associated with familial or parental addiction (e.g. the costs to the Child Welfare, legal, and medical systems)?
  • What are current treatment options exist for families struggling with addiction and what interventions are being developed? By the end of the course, students should be able to discuss some pros and cons of current and developing treatment approaches
  • How and why can addition become an intergenerational concern? How do genetic, epigenetic (e.g. gene by environment), and bioecological perspectives help us answer that question?
  • How are children of parents with substance use disorders affected by their parents' struggles? What are the developmental risks associated with parental and familial addiction? What factors within the developmental environment buffer or lessen these risks?
  • How can children "break the cycle" and achieve healthy developmental outcomes?