How Children of an Alcoholic Parent Have Lasting Emotional Effects

children of an alcoholic parent

How Children of an Alcoholic Parent Have Lasting Emotional Effects

Throughout their childhood and adolescence, children look to their parents for cues on how to think, feel and act, and for children of an alcoholic parent, the potential effects on their emotional well-being can be devastating. Not only do parents who abuse drugs or alcohol put their children at a greater risk for future substance abuse, but they also increase their risk of developing psychological problems and suffering from severe and potentially life-threatening medical conditions. If you or someone you know are struggling with a substance abuse problem, contact the addiction recovery experts at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services at (877) 926-5530 today.

Impact on Children of an Alcoholic Parent

According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, alcohol dependence is defined as the child’s perception that a parent drinks too much and that the parent’s drinking interferes with the child’s life in some way. It could be something as seemingly harmless as missing a school play or forgetting to pick the child up from school one day. Or, it could be something major, like subjecting the child to physical or emotional abuse while drinking. However the parent’s alcoholism manifests itself, the emotional impact of the alcohol abuse on the child can be far-reaching, interfering with parenting skills and marital relations, and possibly even affecting adolescent development and adjustment.

Even more alarming than the emotional toll addiction can have on the children of an alcoholic parent, it is well-known that there is a genetic factor to alcoholism, which means the children of an alcoholic parent may be genetically predisposed to alcohol abuse. According to research, a child is nearly three times more likely to abuse alcohol if one parent is an alcoholic, and about five times more likely if both parents are alcoholics. So, while early intervention can prevent future addiction problems in children of an alcoholic parent, the mere fact that one or both parents are addicted to alcohol automatically increases the child’s risk of ending up on the same path.

Adverse Physical Effects of Alcoholism

The physical and emotional effects of alcohol abuse are well-studied, and the negative effect of alcoholism on a child may begin to manifest itself even before a child is born, in cases where an expectant mother drinks alcohol while pregnant. During childhood and adolescence, a parent’s alcohol abuse may then adversely affect the child’s development and adjustment. And if the child of an alcoholic develops an alcohol problem later in life, he may suffer from any number of medical conditions associated with alcoholism, including the following:

  • Damage to the peripheral and central nervous system
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cancer
  • Endocrine abnormalities

Many alcoholics also suffer from co-occurring emotional problems or psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Contact the Addiction Recovery Experts at BRS Rehab

Although the emotional effect of living with a parent who is an alcoholic varies on a case-by-case basis, research has shown that nearly all children from alcoholic families face an increased risk of behavioral and emotional difficulties, and many carry with them psychological or physical scars as a result of parental addiction. The bottom line is that parental alcohol abuse damages and disrupts the lives of children and families across the country, and children of substance abusing parents are the ones who suffer the most. Contact Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today at (877) 926-5530 if you or someone you love is abusing alcohol.


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