Children's Voices

Experiences and perceptions of European children on drug and alcohol issues
Children's Voices


Date of publication:  09 Sep 2010 Publisher:  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Publication type:  Report / Study / Data

The purpose of this paper is to give meaning and insight into some of the key drug and alcohol issues that affect children from the perspectives of the children themselves. It is not to estimate the relative magnitude of a specific drug or alcohol problem or the numbers of children affected by it. Each section of this paper will be preceded by one or two key statistics and whilst the quotations that follow may highlight a need to develop more robust and detailed statistics on a key issue, the overriding objective is to give the children a voice. The planning of effective interventions should take into account the varied perspectives and circumstances of the children concerned. A selection of quotations are presented, gleaned from qualitative research interviews in Europe, which provide glimpses into the experiences and perceptions of children about issues or problems related to the use of alcohol and drugs. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention because people under 18 years old often require care and protection that adults do not. Article 12 of the legally binding United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC,1990) (1) states that children must be able to express their views in dialogues and decisions affecting their lives and that they should have the right to freedom of expression. Qualitative research among children provides a channel for that expression and can help to reveal and interpret what lies behind child and adolescent statistics. Article 33 of the Convention states that children have the right to protection from the use of narcotic and psychotropic drugs. Research that focuses on the meanings and perceptions of drug and alcohol use from the perspective of children whose lives are in some ways exposed to these substances offers a way to understand their needs and to plan appropriate interventions. In 2006, a European Commission Communication Document actively promoted children’s representation and planned to gradually and formally include children in all consultations and actions related to their rights and needs (Commission of the European Communities, 2006). Research studies and reports about children usually start from a position based on the belief that they have the right to harmonious development and protection from harmful influences, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Therefore, the quotations that are used in this paper illustrate the experiences of children on these issues. The quotations do not claim to provide a comprehensive overview of all key drug and alcohol issues for children. They inevitably reflect the policy and research interests of the fourteen European countries (2) and the period (1997–2010) in which the quotations and research interviews are set. The quotations used give voice to four main issues for children: 1. Living with harmful parental drinking or drug taking 2. Being separated from parents and looked after by relatives, foster carers or institutions 3. Experience and perceptions about alcohol and drug consumption 4. Experience and perceptions about interventions to address alcohol and drug consumption

Attached files: 
Total number of pages: 
Language(s) of materials: 
Country(s) this content is relevant to: 
European Union

This project is funded by: