Community-Level Alcohol Availability and Child Maltreatment: A Statewide Panel Analysis Over 13 Years

Anne Marie Laslett, Nicole Edwards, Steve Allsop, William Ponicki, Tanya Chikritzhs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Parental or caregiver alcohol use, particularly heavy regular or episodic use, can increase the risk of child maltreatment within individual families. At the national level, higher per capita alcohol consumption has been associated with increased child injury mortality in Australia. This study aimed to investigate whether an association exists between substantiated child maltreatment cases, numbers of licensed outlets, and average alcohol sales volumes at the community level (local government area [LGA]) over a 13-year period across Western Australia (WA). Method: Annual panel data were obtained for 132 WA LGAs over the period 2001–2013. Bayesian conditional autoregressive Poisson regression was applied to test associations between numbers of substantiated child maltreatment cases and per-population densities and mean sales volumes of off-trade and on-trade alcohol outlets. Associations were adjusted for the presence of local alcohol restrictions and mandatory reporting; density of on-trade outlets; and their sales, demographic, and socioeconomic variables. Results: Comprehensive area-level alcohol bans and policies restricting alcohol sales reduced child maltreatment by 9.6% and 38.5%, whereas mandatory reporting of child maltreatment increased substantiations by 15.3%. Counterintuitively, for each additional 1,000 L of ethanol sold per off-premise outlet, there was a 3.7% decline in child maltreatment. Conclusions: Local government alcohol restrictions predicted reduced child abuse and neglect. Findings that increases in off-trade outlets predicted a decreased risk of child maltreatment at a local level are seemingly at odds with these findings, but outlet density may be acting as a measure of less disorganization. Alcohol policy that affects alcohol availability can reduce child maltreatment in at-risk areas. Local area alcohol bans and interventions reducing hours of sale should be further evaluated to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-856
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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