Children Living with Parents Who Have a Substance Use Disorder

Social learning theory, in regards to communication and martial dissatisfaction, states that children could view their parents’ communicative behaviors and model them when they are upset with certain situations or relationships. COAs will then emulate the communication skills of an alcoholic in future relationships and social situations which will affect their ability to maintain healthy relationships in the future. Having a family member who suffers from alcoholism is one of the top risk factors for developing it yourself. In addition, children of alcoholics commonly develop para-alcoholism, a condition when a person suffers from emotional or psychological alcoholic symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, without drinking. Cognitive ability of children measured by academic performance and school achievement was seen to be lower in children of alcoholics as compared to healthy controls .

Do personality disorders run in families?

Genetics. Some studies of twins and families suggest that personality disorders may be inherited or strongly associated with other mental health disorders among family members.

"A maniacal man is visited in prison by his children, all ruined through his drinking habit". Behavioral problems that disrupt social interaction or work performance. If your parent with AUD is willing to attend therapy with you, family therapy can often help rebuild trust and pave the way toward healing. Individual therapy is a great place to start, says Michelle Dubey, LCSW, chief clinical officer for Landmark Recovery.

Behaviors of Adults Children of Alcoholics

Attachment is primarily facilitated by the interaction between mother and infant and provides infants with a feeling of security . This serves as a foundation for psychosocial development, personality and formation of future relationships. Secure attachment is developed from a caregiving environment and characterized by parental responsiveness and consistency.

  • There are so many things that alcoholic families don’t talk about – to each other and especially to the outside world.
  • Kandel DB, Andrews K. Processes of adolescent socialization by parents and peers.
  • Their risk also goes up if both parents are addicted to alcohol and other drugs, if the alcohol abuse is severe and if there is violence in the home.
  • In other words, a child of an alcoholic parent grows up fast and learns how to fend for themselves.
  • Being a child of an alcoholic may be a lifelong battle for some children, but there are ways for them to cope with their parent’s substance use and learn to thrive as an adult.

This group of adolescents also show higher functioning in school and higher adaptive functioning. Three broad categories of personality traits can be described on the basis of observable behavioral differences in measures of personality. Among psychoactive substances, most commonly used are caffeine and nicotine, followed by alcohol and cannabis. Excessive alcohol consumption is a major cause of public health concern in most of the countries. If you find Facts for Families© helpful and would like to make good mental health a reality, consider donating to the Campaign for America’s Kids. Your support will help us continue to produce and distribute Facts for Families, as well as other vital mental health information, free of charge.

Coping When a Parent Has an Alcohol or Drug Problem

Their words and actions can send several hurtful messages, which can run the gamut from you being the reason they drink, to you’re a bad person and they don’t care about you. The unpredictable environment, lack of trust, relationship challenges, and fear can greatly wound a child who depends on their parents for physical and emotional safety.

how alcoholic parents affect their children

One link between low social competence in children is poor parenting, especially in the early years of development. According to social learning theory, the presence of antisocial behavior and depression in parents could have a direct influence on inappropriate social behaviors in children when modeling occurs. As a result, alcoholic parents exhibiting these behaviors could very well have a direct negative influence on the social competence of their children. Alcoholic fathers are at a higher risk for poor parenting early in their child’s life and display lower warmth and increased negative affect according to recent studies on the subject. In addition, infants and toddlers are shown lower warmth and sensitivity from their mother, when the mother has an alcoholic partner (Eiden et al., 2009). Children of alcoholics are affected by a variety of problems throughout their lifespan. They are victims of an alcoholic family environment characterized by disruption, deviant and in-adequate parental roles and parent-child relationship.


It can be a relief torealize that some of yourstruggles are common to ACOAs. Mountainside is proud to be 1 of only 7 addiction treatment centers how alcoholic parents affect their children in the United States to hold a 3.7 ASAM certification as well as dual accreditation from CARF International and The Joint Commission.

Some flawed research designs include using ACOAs as part of the control group and comparing them to other ACOAs within the same study. This may have caused some limitations in the study that were not listed.

Alcoholism in family systems

For addict parents, alcohol impairs their cognitive abilities, makes them more likely to have irrational thinking patterns and memory loss, and slowly become withdrawn from their kid’s life. These are just a few of the many consequences of growing up in an alcoholic home. Each child is different and interprets and internalizes a parent’s alcoholic behavior differently. It’s also important to realize that the effects of living with an alcoholic parent don’t stop once the child reaches adulthood. Isolation — Being a child of an alcoholic can be a lonely experience. Children may feel they have no one to talk to about their parent’s behavior. They may also be embarrassed by their parents, causing them to withdraw from friends and other family members.

  • According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry , children are in a unique position when their parents abuse alcohol.
  • Individual therapy is a great place to start, says Michelle Dubey, LCSW, chief clinical officer for Landmark Recovery.
  • Research has demonstrated just how difficult it can be for adult children of alcoholic parents to form meaningful relationships.
  • Theories of alcoholism propose that the genetic predisposition for alcoholism in children of alcoholic parents is partially mediated by temperament or personality.
  • Many factors can affect marital and/or parenting difficulties, but there has not been any evidence found that can link these issues specifically to ACOAs.
  • Genetic risk is increased because the offspring may inherit a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism through the combined lineages of the maternal and the paternal sides of the family.


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