Alcoholism effects on child

What Are the Effects of an Alcoholic Father on Children?

The experience of having a parent who suffers with a substance use disorder (SUD) can be confusing and painful. This article will help you discover the signs to look for in a parent who is suffering from a substance use disorder and shed light on the potential effects of addiction on a child with an alcoholic parent.

American Addiction Centers is here to help those suffering from substance use disorders and their family members recover from the disease of addiction and find a new way to live. Call

Signs to Look for in Child of Alcoholic Parent

Alcohol use disorders aren’t always easy to spot, as many alcoholic parents who abuse alcohol often attempt to hide or cover up the problem. If you suspect that your parent is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, you should first understand the signs of alcohol use disorders. This way, you understand how to cope with a parent struggling with an alcohol use disorder and perhaps encourage your parent to seek help. Some of the signs you might observe in a dad suffering from an alcohol use disorder can include behavioral changes, physical changes, and mental/emotional changes, such as:1,2

  • Drinking more often or in higher amounts than they intended (i.e. they may say they’re going to have one glass of wine with dinner but end up drinking the whole bottle).
  • Being unable to cut down their alcohol use even if they say they want to.
  • Spending most of their time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Feeling strong urges to drink, to the point where they can’t think about anything else.
  • Experiencing problems at work or home due to their alcohol use.
  • Having relationship, family, or other social problems because of alcohol use.
  • Giving up activities they used to enjoy so they can drink.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving or operating machinery.
  • Continuing to drink even though they seem to have developed a physical or mental health problem that is probably due to alcohol abuse.
  • Needing to drink more than before to experience previous effects (i.e. needing to drink more to get drunk).
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms (such as sweating, shaking, or nausea) when they stop drinking.

You might notice that once your parent starts drinking, they don’t know how to stop or can’t tell when enough is enough. They might be defensive about their drinking and insist that they don’t have a problem. They might start fights or arguments with you, your siblings, your other parent, or other members of your family or friends, or have repeated problems with the law (such as DWIs or arrests). In some cases, they might become abusive or violent.3

Does Alcohol Increase the Chances of Child Abandonment or Abuse?

Alcohol abuse could potentially increase the chances of child abandonment or abuse due to its potentially destructive effects on people’s brains, behaviors, and relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, spouses and children often suffer intensely due to a parent’s alcohol abuse. Children may have an increased likelihood of sexual or physical abuse and neglect.3 One study found that parental substance abuse (including alcohol) was significantly related to an increased chance of physical abuse as well as childhood trauma.4 Additional research further explains that children who grow up in alcoholic households may experience increased multiple negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and interpersonal difficulties.5

Another study found that out of 10.5% of families (in this particular study group) affected by parental alcohol abuse before a child’s 18th birthday, the most common family type was characterized by a father’s alcohol abuse combined with parental separation. The second most common family type was characterized by fathers with a drinking or drug problem who experienced financial difficulties and left the family home.6 These results do not necessarily indicate that the father abandoned the family, but rather that the child no longer lived with the father. However, a report from the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy points out that children of alcoholics can suffer from repeated abandonment, as well as multiple issues such as a chaotic or disorganized home environment, uncertainty, instability, inconsistent discipline, neglect, arguments, an unstable parental relationship, violence and/or physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing violence or abuse of others.

Resources for Children

If you think your parent is struggling with an alcohol problem, you may not know where to turn. However, it’s important to know that there are various resources available to you that can provide you with help. Some of these resources include:

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)/Dysfunctional Families, a 12-step group for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAs).
  • National Association for Children of Addiction, which offers tips and other resources for ACoAs.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which offers education and tips on how to help someone seek treatment.
  • SMART Recovery, a non-12-step support group for those affected by familial alcohol abuse.
  • Individual counseling, which can offer a safe place for you to discuss and process your feelings and concerns.
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, which is a hotline you can call at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) to talk to someone if your parent is hurting you.

How Does an Alcoholic Father Affect a Child’s Future or Outlook?

Growing up with an alcoholic father can negatively impact children in different ways. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explains that children can experience increased ongoing emotional difficulties and coping problems, such as guilt, anxiety, embarrassment, problems connecting with others, confusion, anger, and depression. They may develop behavioral problems, such as truancy, social withdrawal, suicidal behavior, violent or problematic behaviors like stealing, and experience frequent unexplained physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches. 8 Alcohol use in fathers has also been linked to increased mortality, including suicide and violent death, in children.9

If you’re an adult saying, “my father was a drinker,” you may have wondered about the effects your dad’s alcoholism has had on your life as a whole, especially if you’ve struggled with ongoing emotional or psychological problems. It’s important to realize that the impact of an alcoholic father isn’t limited to childhood. Research has shown that adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) can experience persistent emotional and social difficulties, including low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, resentment, communication problems, and increased problems in romantic relationships.10 For example, one study explains that adult daughters of alcoholic fathers tend to experience less secure attachment and may display more intense caregiving behaviors in adult relationships.11

Children of alcoholics may also have an increased risk of developing alcoholism themselves. While many factors affect the development of addiction, genetics are believed to account for about half of a person’s risk of alcoholism, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.12

Can I Stop my Alcoholic Dad from Drinking?

It’s not your fault that your father has a substance abuse issue, and it’s not up to you to get him to stop drinking. You cannot control another person’s behavior. Someone struggling with alcoholism, a serious health condition known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), has to want to stop drinking. However, you can express your concern and encourage your father to seek help.

What Happens to Children While Their Dads Are in Rehab?

If you’re a child reading this page and you think your father may be struggling with an alcohol abuse problem, you might worry about what will happen to you when your dad enters rehab. It’s normal to be concerned, but rest assured that your safety and needs are very important and you will not be left alone or neglected. You will still be able to go to school and be taken care of by your family. Some – but not all – rehab facilities offer family rehab programs, which might mean that you live with your dad at his chosen treatment facility for the length of treatment. If your dad attends outpatient treatment, he’ll live at home with you and go to treatment a few times per week.

Can My Father Recover from an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Yes, anyone can recover from an AUD with the right mindset and appropriate treatment. Some of the treatment options for AUD include:13

  • Medication. Certain medications can be a useful option to help someone stop drinking and stay sober.
  • Behavioral therapies. There are many different addiction therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or motivational enhancement therapy (MET), that are proven to be effective for treating AUD and preventing relapse. They help someone change their behaviors, develop coping skills so they can avoid drinking, and cultivate healthier relationships.
  • Family counseling. You may participate in treatment with your dad and the rest of your family. This helps address issues that may have been caused or worsened by your dad’s alcoholism.
  • Mutual support groups. This could include 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or non-12-step groups like SMART Recovery.

Statistics on Alcoholism and Fathers in the U.S.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that around 1 in 10 children (7.5 million) live with a parent who has an AUD. This number includes children from both two-parent and single-parent households.14
  • Out of 1.4 million children who live with one parent who has an AUD, 273,000 live with their fathers.14
  • According to data provided by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (an Office of Family Assistance (OFA) funded national resource), around 4 in 5 fathers (79 %) reported consuming alcohol in the past 12 months. 15
  • The same report indicates that 36% of fathers reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. Binge drinking means a person has 5 or more drinks in one session.15
  • 10 % of fathers reported heavy drinking in the past 30 days. Heaving drinking means binge drinking at least 5 times in the past month.15
  • 9% of fathers reported ever receiving drug or alcohol treatment in their lifetime.15

Find Alcohol Detox Treatment Centers Near You

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). What are the symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD)?
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  3. American Psychological Association. (2018, September). Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment.
  4. Taplin, C., Saddichha, S. , Li, K., & Krausz, M. R. (2014). Family history of alcohol and drug abuse, childhood trauma, and age of first drug injection. Substance use & misuse, 49(10), 1311–1316.
  5. Park, S. & Schepp, K. (2014). A systematic review of research on children of alcoholics: Their inherent resilience and vulnerability. Journal of child and family studies, 24, 1222–1231.
  6. Jääskeläinen, M., Holmila, M., Notkola, I. & Kirsimarja, R. (2015). A typology of families with parental alcohol or drug abuse. Addiction research & theory, 24(4), 288-299.
  7. Fals-Stewart, W. (n.d.). Children of alcoholics.
  8. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2019, May). Alcohol use in families.
  9. Landberg, J., Danielsson, A. K., Falkstedt, D., & Hemmingsson, T. (2018). Fathers’ alcohol consumption and long-term risk for mortality in offspring. Alcohol and alcoholism, 53(6), 753–759.
  10. Haverfield, M. & Theiss, J. (2014). A theme analysis of experiences reported by adult children of alcoholics in online support forums. Journal of family studies, 20(2), 166-184.
  11. Jaeger, E., Hahn, N. B., & Weinraub, M. (2000). Attachment in adult daughters of alcoholic fathers. Addiction, 95(2), 267–276.
  12. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2008). Genetics of alcohol use disorder.
  13. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021, August). Treatment for alcohol problems: finding and getting help.
  14. Lipari, R.N. and Van Horn, S.L. (2017, August 24). Children living with parents who have a substance use disorder. The CBHSQ Report: August 24, 2017. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  15. National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. (2018). NRFC data snapshot resident fathers and substance use.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline | SAMHSA

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

  • Suggested Resources

    What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.

    It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.

    After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative's suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.

    Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

Alcohol in the family and a child. - Ship MRB

Alcohol in the family and a child.

Lately teenage alcoholism poses an increasing danger to Russian families. Alcohol has firmly penetrated the youth subculture, it often has a decisive influence on the formation of the motives and goals of the action of girls and boys, and becomes a constant companion of their present and future life. The effect of alcohol on a growing organism is still hidden for some time, often disguised as innocent "fun" with "absolutely harmless beer" or low-alcohol drinks in bright, attractive containers. But alcohol carries the potential for such a devastating effect on the health and, in general, the fate of every teenager that there is no doubt that decisive measures should be taken to counter this threat. A huge responsibility for the prevention of child alcoholism lies with the parents themselves. nine0005

One of the risk factors for a child to develop alcoholism in the future is his genetic predisposition to this. At the moment, the presence of such a predisposition leaves no doubt in any scientist. True, in itself this predisposition will not be the determining trigger that pushes the child to experiment with alcohol. But, under the influence of certain environmental or personal factors, alcohol tests can be carried out, and then the formation of dependence in a young person will proceed faster and take on more pathological forms. Therefore, if parents or other older family members have a persistent habit of abusing alcohol, if there are patients with chronic alcoholism in the family, it is always worth considering the negative role that they can play in the fate of the child. nine0005

If parents drink alcohol while they are expecting a child, then its negative impact on future offspring is also extremely negative. Alcohol actively affects the physical and mental health of the fetus, causes physical underdevelopment of the unborn child, multiple intrauterine deformities, disorders of the internal organs, mental retardation and disorders, congenital diseases of the central nervous system. The mother's consumption of alcohol during breastfeeding has a negative effect on the child's body. nine0005

Unwittingly, parents often encourage their underage children to become addicted to alcoholic beverages. For example, often the first samples of alcohol occur in the circle of relatives on the occasion of family holidays. The position of parents is usually this: it is better for my child to try alcohol at home, being in front of me, than then on the street to secretly reach for the forbidden potion! And it is not known to such parents that in this way they themselves are pushing the child to the alcoholic abyss. After all, it is known that for any child everything that falls to him from the hands of his mother or father is “permissible”, “not dangerous” and “allowed”. And an alcoholic drink, poured, as a rule, into a beautiful glass, by the hand of a “caring” parent, begins to be perceived as permitted. And if we also take into account that children are most often given champagne, wine, other low-alcohol (sweet, tasty) drinks or beer as the first alcoholic drink in the family, there is a risk of receiving positive reinforcement (well, delicious!) Such a test. Is it any wonder then that a boy or girl, at the next opportunity, no matter where - at home or already on the street with peers, will try to repeat the pleasant taste sensations or an unusual state caused by alcohol. nine0005

And even if a parent giving an alcoholic drink to their child for the first time says that it is harmful and that children are not allowed to drink it, anyway, the mechanism of the child's psychological defense against alcohol has already begun to break down. So "with a light hand" of parents often begins the path of children to alcohol addiction. And this path in adolescence is very short! It has long been established that in adolescents, the use of alcoholic beverages is much faster than in adults, causing alcoholism, and its development is characterized by a malignant course. This is due to the anatomical, physiological and socio-psychological characteristics of childhood and adolescence. nine0005

Unfavorable family climate, frequent conflicts between relatives and friends, emotional alienation of parents, ignoring the interests and needs of the child, even in an outwardly prosperous family, can cause the child to start abusing alcohol. In this case, his alcoholic behavior is a kind of protest reaction or a way to "get away from problems."

Every child strives to imitate the behavior of adults. If a bottle of vodka, wine or beer is a frequent guest in the house, if the mother, father or close relatives are themselves alcoholics, then a whole range of mechanisms is put into action that affect the child's future alcoholic behavior. nine0005

Thus, child and adolescent alcoholism is a family problem. To avoid it, every parent needs to start with themselves. Consider the microclimate that has developed in your family, determine the risk of unfavorable heredity, analyze your relationship with alcohol, perhaps reconsider your views and habits, think about whether you are doing everything right when building relationships with your own child. Love your children!

Methodist T.N. Staroletov. nine0005 Korablinskaya MRBNews

What happens to a child if the mother drinks alcohol?

03. 12.2019

Alcohol and pregnancy are incompatible - doctors do not get tired of talking about this to expectant mothers. But pregnant women sometimes allow themselves to skip a glass of wine, thinking that nothing bad will come of such an amount. However, alcohol can interfere with fetal development at any stage of pregnancy, even very early. nine0005

Studies show that excessive (four or more drinks at a time) and/or regular drinking by an expectant mother puts the fetus at the greatest risk of serious problems. But even a smaller amount of alcohol can be harmful, since there is no safe dose.

Alcohol easily passes from the mother's bloodstream into the child's bloodstream, which can affect the development of the brain and other vital organs, structures and physiological systems of the baby's body, leading to malformations that can begin in a child in early childhood and last a lifetime. The most profound effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are brain damage and associated behavioral and cognitive impairment. nine0005

Scientists define a wide range of effects and symptoms caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, termed "fetal alcohol spectrum disorders". These include conditions such as intrauterine alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related nervous system disorder, and alcohol-associated birth defects. All these cases have one common feature - damage to the central nervous system (CNS) as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure to the fetus. nine0005

The effect of alcohol on the CNS may be structural (eg, reduction in brain size, changes in certain areas of the brain) or functional (eg, cognitive and behavioral deficits, motor and coordination problems). Extended studies using modern imaging techniques (MRI, CT, etc.) have revealed differences in the structure and activity of the brain that are consistent with neuropsychological testing data, including a disorder in processing information from the senses, changes in cognitive processes and behavior in adults with the disorder alcohol spectrum of the fetus compared to healthy people. nine0005

The most profound effects of prenatal alcohol exposure are brain damage and associated impairments in behavioral and cognitive functioning.

How are the disorders different?

Fetal alcohol syndrome was the first form of alcohol spectrum disorder and is still the most well-known syndrome. It manifests itself with excessive alcohol consumption by the expectant mother during the first trimester of pregnancy. The impact of harmful substances on the fetus can disrupt the normal development of not only the brain, but also the face. Thus, in addition to CNS developmental anomalies, the child will have a specific pattern of three facial anomalies: narrow eye openings, a smooth area between the lip and nose (compared to a normal ridge), and a thin upper lip. Also, the baby may experience growth deficiency in utero and (or) after birth. nine0005

Partial fetal alcohol syndrome includes only some of the characteristics listed above.

An alcohol-related disorder of the nervous system is characterized by disorders of the central nervous system, which may be structural or functional. Functional impairments include a complex pattern of cognitive (mental) or behavioral problems that do not correspond to the standard level of development at any given age in a child. At the same time, the reasons for this discrepancy cannot be explained by factors other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Facial abnormalities and growth retardation should not be present. nine0005

Alcohol-related birth defects include heart, kidney, bone, and other malformations; difficulties with vision and hearing; decreased function of the immune system. They are rarely considered separately, but rather are a secondary disorder that accompanies other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

What will happen to the baby in the future?

Every person whose mother may have abused alcohol during pregnancy experiences a combination of everyday turmoil that includes medical, behavioral, educational, or social problems in the following areas: nine0005

  • learning and memorization;
  • understanding and following directions;
  • ability to keep attention;
  • the ability to control emotions;
  • communication and socialization;
  • performing daily life skills (eg, eating, bathing, counting money, taking care of personal safety).

People with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are more likely than others to make bad decisions, repeat the same mistakes, trust the wrong people, and have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions. They are also more prone to disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, impulse control problems, alcoholism and drug addiction. nine0005

People with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are more likely than others to make bad decisions, repeat the same mistakes, trust the wrong people, and have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions.

Risk factors

Of course, it is impossible to argue that just one sip of champagne during pregnancy can provoke many anomalies in the development of the fetus and affect the psyche of the unborn child. But the medical community recommends completely avoiding any dose of alcohol during pregnancy. nine0005

There are risk factors that contribute to the development of undesirable consequences:

  • amount of alcohol a pregnant woman drinks at a time;
  • frequency of drinking by a pregnant woman;
  • the stage of pregnancy at which a woman drinks alcohol, and how much she drinks during the formation of one or another body system in the fetus.

Prenatal alcohol exposure to children can be exacerbated if their mothers are malnourished, overweight, underweight, or smoke…
In addition, studies show that prenatal alcohol exposure affects children more if their mothers live in unfavorable conditions and experience high levels of stress. These may include, for example, social isolation, living in a society where excessive drinking is common and acceptable, and living in a society where resources for prenatal care are limited.

The prenatal effects of alcohol on children can be exacerbated if their mothers are malnourished, overweight, underweight, smoke… nine0005

How to help a child?

First aid for a child is the refusal of the expectant mother from alcohol. But if during pregnancy a woman allowed herself to drink alcohol and the child has symptoms of a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, special tactics of education and training should be applied.

Learn more