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The Effects of Parental Alcohol Abuse on Children

author image Carissa Lawrence
Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.
The Effects of Parental Alcohol Abuse on Children
Young father yelling at mother and her children. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Even though alcohol abuse is an issue that directly affects adults, children of alcoholics are also affected in childhood and sometimes into adulthood. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children of alcoholics generally experience psychological effects as a result of parental alcohol abuse. Many children who are raised by a parent who abuses alcohol will also experience some form of neglect or abuse, whether it be emotional or physical. Parental alcohol abuse puts children at greater risk for having intellectual, physical, social and emotional problems than peers raised by non-alcoholics.

Bonds That Aren't Right

Children need time to develop bonds with their parents during the early stages of their lives. These bonds develop partially from parental ability to pay attention to and notice their children's attempts to communicate. Parents who abuse alcohol when their children are infants or toddlers may be inattentive or disengaged when dealing with them. As a result, young children may also become disengaged and have trouble forming appropriate, healthy relationships with their parents.

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Parents Misbehave, Kids Suffer

Family life in a home where a parent abuses alcohol can often be unpredictable and chaotic. Alcoholic parents often exhibit extreme moods, ranging from loving and supportive to withdrawn or violent. Parents' erratic behavior can lead to feelings of insecurity, fear and confusion in children. At a time in their lives when stability and predictability is vital, young children of parents who abuse alcohol are instead faced with a life that involves little to no structure. Children of alcoholics are often exposed to domestic violence and are sometimes victims of physical or verbal abuse themselves.

Fear and Shame

Not knowing what type of parent they are going to wake up to or come home to can cause children to develop anxiety issues. Children of parents who abuse alcohol might worry about their home situation in general, the health of an alcoholic parent or potential domestic violence that occurs when the parent is drunk. Kids in families where there is parental alcohol abuse often feel embarrassed about their parents' problem and become shy and withdrawn at school as a result. Some alcoholic parents even give their kids the message that their alcoholism needs to be kept a secret, which can cause children to be ashamed or afraid to ask a teacher or other trusted adult for help.

Kids Pay the Price

Children of parents who abuse alcohol have a lot on their plate. The added stresses that come with having an alcoholic parent can have negative effects on kids' academic achievement and overall behavior at school. Worrying about conflict and tension at home can cause children to have trouble focusing at school, and some kids of alcoholics, in search of attention, may exhibit behavior problems. Kids with alcoholic parents are more likely to score lower on school achievement tests and other measures of progress, such as quizzes. Their grades can also suffer as a result of not having time for homework or an adequate an environment to do it in. Many children of alcoholics receive little to no academic support at home.

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