If the mother drank while pregnant, they could even be a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome, which carries through childhood and into adulthood. In the U.S., growing up in a household with alcoholic parents is not a rarity. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that one in five adults in the U.S. grew up with an alcoholic family member at home. Children of parents who use alcohol are at higher risk for anxiety, depression, and unexplained physical symptoms (internalizing behaviors). They are also more likely to display rule-breaking, aggressiveness, and impulsivity (externalizing behaviors) in childhood. Some adult children of parents with AUD take themselves very seriously, finding it extremely difficult to give themselves a break.

What are relationship problems for children of alcoholics?

Low self-esteem leading to clinginess, controlling behavior or manipulation. Impaired attachment strategies and a fear of commitment. A tendency to transfer feelings from childhood to the present. Dependency or codependency in relationships.

Growing up in an alcoholic home can have long-term, damaging effects on the emotional and psychological well-being of a child. These long-term effects can include higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, as well as difficulties with forming healthy relationships and engaging in positive behaviors. Children may also be more vulnerable to developing https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/how-alcoholic-parents-affect-their-children/ substance use disorders themselves as they grow older. In addition, research has shown that children of alcoholics are more likely to suffer from physical health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Finally, growing up in an alcoholic home can affect a child’s educational performance and success, as well as their career prospects later in life.

Coping mechanism

Children largely rely on their parents for guidance learning how to identify, express, and regulate emotions. But a parent with AUD may not have been able to offer the support you needed here, perhaps in part because they experienced emotional dysregulation themselves. All of these behaviors can make it more difficult to form healthy, satisfying relationships. Many COAs don’t receive enough positive attention from their parents. They may struggle to please their parents and believe they will eventually get the attention they want if they constantly seek their approval.

  • One misconception that many people have is that their drinking is not affecting anyone else.
  • They may often wonder how bad it will be that day, if the adult will harm themselves or others, if they will be yelled at, etc.
  • Children of alcoholics may also exhibit behavioral problems, including aggression, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
  • While we often tend to focus on the difficult experiences, children of parents with AUD can also have many perceived “advantages” or strengths as a result of overcoming their traumatic past.
  • It’s estimated that more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics, and nearly 11 million are under the age of 18.

Problem drinking by parents may negatively influence important parenting skills that serve to nurture and provide guidance for children. For example, problem drinking may contribute to inconsistency or unpredictability in parenting behaviors (see Holmes and Robins 1987). On some occasions, an adolescent’s request to use the car may be met with verbal abuse by a parent; other times, the request may receive consideration and support. Even though the effects of growing up with alcoholic parents can last through adulthood, it’s important to remember that children in these situations have to do the best they can to cope and survive. By being honest with oneself and acknowledging the effect pain has had, children of alcoholic parents can let go and move forward. For more information on how children are affected by alcohol use disorders or how to find treatment, contact a treatment provider today.


They may have a fear of abandonment or rejection, leading them to feel insecure in their relationships with others. This can cause them to withdraw from social situations, leading to social isolation and loneliness. If you live with a parent who has an alcohol or drug problem, you’re not alone. Alcohol problems and addictions to drugs (such as opioids) are called substance use disorders. Living with an alcoholic keeps your fight, flight, or freeze response in overdrive. You never know what’s coming and when conflict arises, you go into survival mode.

  • You’re actually a highly sensitive person, but you’veshut down youremotions in order to cope.
  • Some adult children of alcoholics may feel that their childhood was disrupted by their parent’s addiction, but this doesn’t have to hold them back.
  • You really can’t understand addiction as a child, so you blame yourself and feel “crazy” because your experiences didnt line up with what adults were telling you (namely that everything is fine and normal).
  • Empathy is also an “advantage” of children who have parents with AUD.
  • One common strength of these children is their propensity to have to “grow up fast” and learn to take care of themselves at a much earlier age than their developmental milestones would dictate.
  • Some may even engage in dangerous risk-taking behaviors to experience the sense of excitement they’re used to from their childhood.

Some adults benefit from therapy to learn more about how their issues began and what to do about them. If the child gives permission, and you’re certain the child won’t face consequences for the disclosure, take the next step. Don’t leave the child in a vulnerable position because you’re worried about repercussions.

The Long-Term Effects of Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home

When a parent is preoccupied with maintaining their dependency on alcohol, they often do not meet their child’s basic needs. These needs include nutrition, safety, education, structure, consistency, affection, and healthcare. If these basic needs are not met, households (many of them fraught with alcohol abuse) could be filled with chaos and uncertainty.

how alcoholic parents affect their children

They may engage in risky behavior, such as underage drinking or drug use, leading to legal problems and health issues. Alcohol addiction is a complex disease that affects the person abusing alcohol as well as their entire family. Children of alcoholics may carry the emotional damage from childhood into adulthood, which can affect their relationships and how they handle stress and conflict.

These people often find that any failure can significantly impact their well-being, making them more likely to suffer from mental health problems than others. Offer reassurance
Children of alcoholic parents may feel insecure and uncertain about their future. Offer reassurance and support, letting them know that they are valued and loved. Speaking to a qualified therapist or seeking treatment in a reputable program may be a life-changing course of action for these individuals. When you are not only struggling with emotional psychological disorders but also substance abuse, the need to be immersed in a recovery program could be a lifesaver; literally. Whether you are a parent who is an alcoholic or a child of a parent who drinks excessively, this article is for you.

Our goal is to provide compassionate, comprehensive, personalized care to help you overcome the struggles of addiction. Growing up as a COA can lead people to develop an unhealthy perception of allowances they should make for dysfunctional behavior. Learning permissiveness from a young age can make it challenging to identify red flags and lead to staying in damaging relationships. Without a positive childhood role model, it’s also common for ACOAs to find it challenging to acknowledge their mistakes and learn from them. Children living in households affected by alcohol addiction often deal with chaos and uncertainty throughout their daily lives.

The Effects Of Growing Up With Alcoholic Parents

The treatment program may include group therapy with other youth, which reduces the isolation of being a child of an alcoholic. The child and adolescent psychiatrist will often work with the entire family, particularly when the alcoholic parent has stopped drinking, to help them develop healthier ways of relating to one another. Adolescent behaviors, including alcohol use and abuse, are influenced by a multitude of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

sober networking

You probably didn’t get a lot of affirmation from your alcoholic parent. They may have emotionally neglected you and even belittled you and your interests. You may constantly seek approval in relationships and have difficulty having fun. You don’t think you deserve to be happy, have a healthy relationship, or take good care of yourself. These are effects that adversely compromise adult relationships as well as your sense of self. Parents that struggle with alcohol use disorder have unpredictable behaviors and can often cause dysfunction in their children’s lives.