Effects of Having Alcoholic Parents
At first, children may not realize that their parents have alcohol use disorders. Their parents may conceal their use by sneaking around, drinking at odd times or hiding the evidence of abuse.
Some parents may make attempts to normalize their drinking. They may try to convince their kids that drinking excessively at the end of the day, constantly drinking to intoxication or drinking to cope with sadness are all common, expected behaviors.
Children can see the presence of alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorders by looking for clear signs. Parents with alcohol addiction often:
- Spend more time using and recovering from use of alcohol than others
- Make failed attempts to cut back or eliminate use
- Experience unwanted social, educational, occupational, legal, physical health or mental health effects of alcohol use
- Crave alcohol when none is available
- Only feel well when they are drinking
Addiction is marked by an intense focus on substance use and the substance itself, leaving little time for other priorities. The impact of this obsession results in children who are left to provide for themselves. New clothes, nutritious meals and a clean house may not be likely when parents are addicted. Parents who are addicted may also put their children in uncomfortable or dangerous situations based on their poor judgment. Even before birth, children may be exposed to alcohol in utero, which creates the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
As young children, addicted adults may provide poor childcare, let strangers supervise the child or drive under the influence of alcohol with children in the car. All of these can lead to very dangerous outcomes.
Mentally, a parent’s substance use issues can interrupt the healthy development of attachment, trust, emotional regulation and problem-solving. Without parents serving as positive examples, a child can engage in risky behaviors and grapple with limited abilities to self-soothe.
The Impact of Substance Use Disorders on Families
Substance use disorders affect the family unit in multiple lasting ways. Studies show that:
- Parents with a substance use disorder are three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their child
- Abused children are 50% more likely to be arrested before age 18 and 40% more likely to commit a violent crime
- About 66% of those who sexually abuse their children use alcohol before the act
All of these factors may result in damaging consequences to the child, including medical and mental hardships, out-of-home placement and incarceration.