Parents influence their children in countless profound ways. Parents can shape a child’s sense of self-worth, problem-solving skills, and perceptions of his or her environment. When a child has a parent with an alcohol abuse disorder, the parent’s behavior will invariably influence the child’s. In some cases, children grow up to develop alcohol abuse disorders after observing a parent’s struggles with alcoholism or as a coping mechanism. In any case, it’s essential to address and analyze these connections and understand parents’ effects on their children in terms of substance abuse.
Understanding Genetic Alcoholism
The links between alcoholism and genetics are complicated, and no clear genetic indicator that a person will succumb to alcoholism in his or her life exists. However, studies show that a child with a parent who has an alcohol abuse disorder is three to four times more likely than his or her peers to develop alcoholism later in life*.
There has also been research into specific populations with genetic trends that influence alcohol-related behaviors. For example, some individuals from East Asia have a genetic marker that produces more of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than other people have. This can cause them to drink more than average in one sitting than others to achieve the desired effect, and over time this leads to faster formation of tolerance and a higher susceptibility to developing alcoholism.
Parents’ Influence On Behavior And Perception
When children grow up around alcohol abuse they tend to develop decreased sensitivity to alcohol and its effects. For example, a child who grows up with an alcoholic father may not realize until later in life that such a family dynamic is neither normal nor healthy. This has a domino effect and can increase the likelihood of a child experimenting with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age or taking experimentation too far and developing a substance abuse problem at a very young age. An alcoholic with an alcoholic parent may blame the parent for being a bad influence, but having an alcoholic parent is not an automatic sign that the child will be an alcoholic too.
Alcoholic parents are inherently more likely to abuse their children due to diminished judgment and constant drunkenness. This in turn can traumatize children, cause the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and propel a child to cope by using drugs and alcohol later in life. Genetic markers account for roughly half of a person’s risk of developing alcoholism as an adult**, but simply having a parent with alcoholism is not a surefire sign the child will develop alcoholism. Ultimately, the decision to start drinking is a personal choice.
High-Functioning Alcoholism In The Family
Some children develop distorted views of alcohol due to parents with high-functioning alcoholism. A high-functioning alcoholic may not abuse or neglect his or her children, but the behaviors surrounding his or her alcohol abuse will influence the children’s perceptions of alcohol. For example, if children see dad come home from work every day and have a drink, they may start to assume that drinking after work is just a normal response to stress. Eventually, this perception can bleed over into other aspects of life and teach them that alcohol consumption is an acceptable response to everyday stresses.
Does Your Parent Or Sibling Suffer From Alcoholism?
If you have a parent or close blood relative with an alcohol abuse disorder such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling, it may be worth assessing your personal risk of developing alcoholism and carefully analyzing your own alcohol consumption patterns. If you believe a young man you know is at risk of alcoholism, consider taking this brief quiz on the Reflections Rehab website to assess risk factors and identify red flags.
My Risk Of Alcohol Abuse Disorder With An Alcoholic Parent
Genetic influences may account for half of a person’s risk of developing an alcohol abuse disorder, but what about the other half? Several factors can influence a person’s alcohol abuse habits. Some of the most common include:
- Peer pressure. Social drinking is extremely prevalent in American life and it can be difficult for some people to overcome pressure to drink, even at inappropriate times.
- Stress. Drugs and alcohol appear to be easy coping mechanisms for stress but relying on these substances is ultimately destructive. It’s vital to learn healthy stress management techniques.
- Environment. People who are constantly around alcohol and people with alcohol abuse disorders are more likely to develop problems with alcohol.
- Boredom. Substance abuse can seem like an easy escape from monotony and repetition common in many people’s everyday lives.
- Mental health disorders. A substance abuse disorder running in tandem with a mental health disorder is a dangerous situation that can quickly develop into a dual diagnosis. Unchecked mental health issues can lead to self-medication with alcohol that gradually turns to alcoholism.
Overcoming Dangerous Influences And Unlearning Damaging Behaviors
During alcohol addiction treatment a patient learns to address the underlying issues that led to substance abuse, and this sometimes means confronting parental issues like abuse, ridicule, and bad influences. A parent’s behavior may shape a child’s perception of the world, but this does not mean this pattern needs to continue into adulthood.
Once a child becomes an adult and learns to take responsibility for him or herself, it is no longer realistic to place blame on a parent. The patient can confront the parent’s past misdeeds or abusive behaviors, but ultimately the parent did not force the child to start drinking, and taking personal responsibility for poor choices is a crucial step to recovery.
Finding The Right Treatment Plan For You
Reflections Rehab is a men’s-only recovery center that emphasizes outdoor activity and individualized treatment plans for all types of substance abuse disorders. Contact us or visit us online to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment program and find out if it is right for you.