How Parental Alcoholism Affects the Family

Parental Alcoholism

It is estimated that approximately 15 million Americans suffer from an alcohol addiction of some kind. Of these 15 million, many are parents.

Unfortunately, when a parent suffers from alcoholism, he or she is not the only one who suffers. His or her children suffer as well, and usually in a substantial way.

Below, we’re going to get into the specifics of parental alcoholism, focusing on the way it affects the family, in particular. Let’s begin.

Fetal Effects of Parental Alcoholism

The fact of the matter is that the negative effects of parental alcoholism can take hold before a child is even born. In particular, a mother’s alcohol consumption can have ill effects on her growing child during pregnancy.

A fetus which is exposed to alcohol becomes prone to a condition known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The effects of this condition are both severe and longstanding and will generally impact the affected fetus from birth until the end of life.

Some of the complications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder include facial deformities, physical growth issues, behavioral issues, learning disorders, and body defects. Generally, the more alcohol a pregnant woman consumes, the greater chance there is of her child having this condition.

Effects of Having an Alcoholic Parent

While no two alcoholics share the exact same behaviors, many have the same psychological effect on their kids. The most common effects of having an alcoholic parent are as follows.

Trouble Trusting Others

Perhaps the most common effect that presents itself in the children of alcoholics is the effect of being unable to trust others. Generally a longlasting effect, it forms as a reaction to the lying, manipulation, and deception carried out by the alcoholic parent.

The kids of parents such as these become accustomed to using a mindset of skepticism and eventually begin to project that skepticism onto everyone they meet. Whether it be a friend, a romantic partner, a co-worker or otherwise, the affected child will tend to doubt and question his or her words and actions.

At its core, this is a defense mechanism. The affected child utilizes it to avoid being hurt.

Attention-Seeking Behavioral Patterns

Another common effect of growing up with an alcoholic father or mother is the development of attention-seeking behavior. This generally comes about as a reaction to neglect. In other words, because the father or mother was too caught up in alcohol, he or she failed to show adequate attention to his or her child.

This effect presents itself differently in different people. Whereas some individuals will try to gain attention through perfectionism and overachievement, other individuals will try to gain attention by acting out in outrageous ways.

Self-esteem Issues

Self-esteem issues run rampant in the children of alcoholics. The reasons for this are many.

In some cases, the direct actions of alcoholic parents cause their children to have low self-esteem. For instance, if the alcoholic parent is abusive or neglectful, the child at the receiving end of the abuse or neglect might begin to feel as though he or she is deserving of such behavior.

Self-esteem issues can also arise out of the shame of having an alcoholic parent. For instance, the child of an alcoholic might feel as though he or she is worth less than the children of sober parents.

Emotional Dysregulation

Another common characteristic of children of alcoholic parents is emotional dysregulation. Because they were not taught proper coping skills, these children might become impulsive, erratic, angry, or inconsolable at the slightest provocation.

Emotional dysregulation comes in a range of forms and severities. In some cases, it could even be severe enough to warrant a personality disorder diagnosis.

Trouble in School

While it’s not true of them all, many kids of alcoholic parents tend to have trouble in school. This is so for a number of reasons, most of which involve the stress that comes with having to be around such a parent.

Many of these kids perform poorly in school because of the volatile environments they live in. Because their alcoholic parents are always on the verge of physically or verbally abusing them, they have a difficult time concentrating on their studies. Naturally, they falter.

Others of these kids perform poorly in school due to the fact that their parents offer them limited assistance. Because they’re not being given the proper resources, they have no realistic chance to thrive.

Increased Risk of Alcoholism

Perhaps the most tragic effect of having an alcoholic parent is the increased risk of becoming an alcoholic yourself. The simple fact of the matter is that alcoholism runs in families.

The question is: why? There are a number of factors at play.

One of the biggest factors is that kids naturally mimic what their parents do. In other words, kids of alcoholics see their parents drinking alcohol regularly and determine that there’s nothing wrong with the behavior. Then, when they grow up, they become alcoholics as well.

In other cases, hereditary mental illnesses cause family members to become alcoholics. For instance, those who have bipolar disorder (an often inherited disease) are more inclined to form alcohol addictions than those who are not.

Treatment for Parental Alcoholism

There are a few different treatment options available to those who deal with parental alcohol addiction. This is true for both the kids of alcoholics and alcoholic parents themselves.

First and foremost, for both parents and children, psychological therapy is a must. Not only does alcoholism typically stem from a place of deep psychological pain, but it also often transfers that pain to those family members who are forced to encounter it. Therapy is a great way for individuals to get to the roots of their pain, ultimately helping them to lead happy and healthy lives.

Another treatment option, specifically for those who are addicted to alcohol, is rehab. Alcohol rehabilitation centers exist for the sole purpose of getting alcoholics clean. Offering everything from physical therapy to psychological therapy to controlled detox and more, the programs offered by these facilities can literally save lives.

Take Advantage of Rehab Services in Stuart, Florida

Have you suffered the effects of parental alcoholism? Looking for help for either yourself or your parent? If so, we here at Coastal Detox are the people to see.

Ours is the premier rehabilitation center in Stuart, Florida. Offering a bevy of rehabilitation services, we’re dedicated to improving the lives of our patients and their families.

Contact us today to discuss your needs!

References

Article Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.