When children are raised with a parent that abuses alcohol, there are many ramifications that arise as a result. First and foremost, it puts a child at risk for developing an addiction of their own at some point in life. Researchers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate that approximately 7.5 million American children and teens (18 years and younger) live with a parent who has struggled with alcohol abuse within the last 12 months. This is a total of 10.5% of children and teens across America.
SAMSHA goes on to explain that of these 7.5 million children and teens, 6.1 of them live in a two-parent household while 1.4 of them live in single-parent homes. Of the single parent homes, 1.1 million live with their mother while the remaining live with their father. Sadly, the single parents, especially women, often have significant obstacles to attending treatment for addiction, if they needed it. First of all, economic circumstances might keep them from getting professional help to treat their illness. If a single parent needed to keep working or if they didn’t know where to house the children while they were in treatment, then it’s likely that person won’t get treatment at all. This can worsen the family relationship, jeopardize the psychological health of the children, and place everyone at risk for getting their needs met. The household might feel chaotic and unsafe for children.
Furthermore, research also indicates that children who were raised in alcoholic families later grow up with issues regarding relationships, self esteem, unhealthy views of themselves and of the world, emotional regulation, and vulnerability to other psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
For instance, in 1983, Dr. Janet Woititz wrote a groundbreaking book titled, Adult Children of Alcoholics. The book outlines the characteristics of adults who were raised in homes in which there was at least one form of addiction. The following list describes the traits of adults who were raised in a family environment in which there was addiction and/or compulsive behavior. They tend to have:
- a fear of losing control
- a fear of emotions or feelings
- a tendency to avoid conflict
- a tendency to constantly seek out approval from others
- an inability to relax
- patterns of self-criticism and low self esteem
- strong patterns of denial
- compulsive personalities
- difficulty with intimacy
- a victim mindset
- a fear of abandonment
- a vulnerability to physical illness
- unresolved grief
- a tendency to overreact
- a tendency to confuse love and pity
From this list, you may be able to see that children who are raised in homes in which there is an addiction are at risk for a variety of issues later in their life. The issues they face may begin in adolescence and continue throughout adulthood, if not addressed. In fact, parents who are struggling with an addiction but who do not have the resources (time, money, family help) to get professional assistance may want to consider getting help for their children. This could include having your child or teen attend Al-anon or bringing your child to therapy.
If you are a parent who is struggling with an alcohol addiction and if you’re unable to get help for yourself, consider getting professional assistance for your children. Doing so may prevent physical, emotional, and psychological concerns later in a child’s life.
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