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Parent’s Drinking Affects Children from Birth

Parent’s Drinking Affects Children from Birth
Posted on November 15, 2017 by CHS

Virtually everyone is familiar with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition which presents in infants of mothers who drink alcohol excessively during pregnancy. However, less commonly discussed are the effects of parental alcohol consumption in children and teenagers. Nearly seven million children in the United States reside with at least one alcoholic parent, and the consequences are noticeable.

Emotional effects
Children are fighters. They are resilient and bounce back very quickly from the little ups and downs of life. But children of alcoholics (COAs) often never get the opportunity to do so. Depression and antisocial behaviors are more common in COAs. These children often have abandonment and trust issues due to divorce and domestic violence, which some studies suggest often co-occur with alcoholism. COAs may believe they are the cause of their parents drinking since, as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy explains, children tend to believe their thoughts and feelings directly influence parental behavior.

Cognitive consequences
COAs often present with lower IQs than their non-COA peers. Additionally, children living with alcoholic parents tend to score lower on reading and math evaluations than children whose parents don’t regularly expose them to witnessing alcohol or drug consumption. Further cognitive impairments in COAs, and especially male children of alcoholic fathers, include poor abstract thinking, learning, memory, and problem solving skills. White paper Cognitive Impairment in Children of Alcoholics by Robert O. Pihl, Ph.D. and Kenneth R. Bruce B.Sc. offers more in depth information regarding this undeniable link.

Bad behavior
In addition to the emotional and cognitive issues experienced by COAs, children of alcoholics have more difficulties in school when compared to non-COAs. Language and reasoning skills are often deficient, which can lead to poor academic performance. Younger children raised in this type of environment often lack stimulation and go on to middle and high school with the belief that they will be failures in life no matter how well they perform academically. Children of addicted parents are more often referred for disciplinary action related to behavioral issues, or for increased absences.

Family failures
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports that COAs are raised in a dysfunctional family environment and don’t experience the same level of family cohesion and parental bonding as their non-COA counterparts. These dysfunctionalities carry over into other aspects of the COA’s life, including their ability to establish and maintain positive relationships outside of the home. COAs are often exposed to higher levels of domestic violence and family conflict and may be more likely to become the target of physical abuse than other children.

Adolescents and alcohol
While genetics plays a role in addiction, studies have found that a child’s environment is a far greater influence than inherited disposition. Children whose parents regularly abuse drugs or alcohol tend to grow up doing the same thing, which can trigger a cycle of negative behaviors that last for generations.

Getting help
Many alcoholic parents report that the stress of parenthood, coupled with an inclination toward substance abuse, makes it difficult to change their behavior. However, according to Treehouse Rehab, it is possible to mitigate stress in a way that allows you to lead by example and live a healthier life for you and your children. The Texas-based rehabilitation center recommends looking at the big picture, giving yourself something to look forward to, and learning to communicate with your child regardless of their age or reasoning ability.

The effects of alcoholism on children are long-lasting and can affect their future health and happiness. However, parents who change their behaviors early in their child’s development may be able to circumvent many of the consequences that would otherwise plague their offspring.


This blog was written by our guest contributor, Paige Johnson from LearnFit. LearnFit has a team of writers that enjoy writing about topics such as DIY projects, family, careers, cooking, and fitness. Click here to see more of LearnFit’s informative resources.

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