Alcoholic Parents: How Children Are Affected

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You might also end up spending a lot of addressing the consequences of these actions. If your parent has AUD, you may be more likely to act without planning or considering potential consequences.

  • The term “child of an alcoholic syndrome” describes the unique trauma of individuals who grow up with parents with an alcohol addiction.
  • Toddlers in secure relationships are guided by their supportive caregivers in soothing and managing negative emotions .
  • A regular daily schedule, which is very important for a child, does not exist because bedtimes and mealtimes are constantly changing.
  • According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, it’s important for children of alcoholics to know they are not alone and that alcohol addiction is a disease.
  • Kids or teens who grow up in an addicted household may hold a lot of built-up resentment toward their parents because theynever got to have a “normal” childhood.

Learn about psychological and developmental impacts, how alcoholism changes a home and family dynamic, and what you can do to get help. Likewise, if you are the partner or the child of a parent who has or had an alcohol use disorder , please seek outsupport. If you are experiencing one or more of the issues above or any other psychological distress, you deserve help and treatment. The emotional and psychological scars that children of parents with AUD can develop can last well into adulthood.

Psychological and Emotional Effects

Beyond health consequences, excessive alcohol use also causes significant social and economic losses to individuals, their families and society in large. These are just a few of the many consequences of growing up in an alcoholic home. Each child is different and interprets and internalizes a parent’s alcoholic behavior differently. It’s also important to realize that the effects of living with an alcoholic parent don’t stop once the child reaches adulthood. 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 theyhandle stressand conflict.

  • This means expressing how their drinking makes you feel, and what emotions you have been experiencing.
  • These symptoms include hypervigilance, need for control, difficulty with emotions, and low self esteem.
  • 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.
  • Substance Abuse Guide for Parents Find out what you can do to protect your children.
  • Have “stuffed” their feelings from their traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express feelings because it hurts so much .
  • A trained mental health professional can offer more support with identifying unhelpful habits and coping mechanisms and exploring alternatives that better serve you.

In order to get how alcoholic parents affect their children children will act out in school, get into trouble with the law, or just create trouble in general. These adolescents show features characterized by intense emotional experiences and unstable relationships. They tend to experience extremes of all emotions, including anxiety, anger and sadness; that tend to change rapidly and unpredictably. They lack a stable sense of self as values, attitudes and feelings about self are derived from external situations. These adolescents show high rates of borderline personality traits. Children of alcoholic fathers are more likely to show novelty seeking as a temperamental trait while those of alcoholic mothers show lower self-directedness as a character dimension . Alcohol is a toxic and psychoactive substance with propensity for producing psychological and physical dependence.

How Are Children Impacted by Growing Up with Alcoholic Parents?

Not many people escape the effects of an alcoholic parent unscathed. The unpredictable environment, lack of trust, relationship challenges, and fear can greatly wound a child who depends on their parents for physical and emotional safety. In regard to their feelings for the alcoholic parent, many children fluctuate between feeling intensely ashamed and fiercely loyal of their parent. They may feel driven to care for them despite the fact that they are the child in the situation, sacrificing their own adult life to support and enable a parent.

  • 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.
  • Depression — Many children with parents who are alcoholics experience mental health conditions such as depression.
  • But these studies have not fully explored what is called executive function—planning, restraint and other behaviors that are impaired with FHA.
  • You probably didn’t get a lot of affirmation from your alcoholic parent.

Your therapist can help you determine a therapy approach that best fits your unique needs and concerns. In some cases, these actions might lead to self-loathing and regret.

You Don’t Outgrow the Effects of an Alcoholic Parent

Acknowledging the characteristics of alcoholism and para-alcoholism that were internalized and identifying, acknowledging, and removing them. Avoiding emotional intoxication and choosing workable relationships instead of constant upset. Para-alcoholics” and take on characteristics of the disease even though they never picked up a drink. Live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in love and friendship relationships. Become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill abandonment needs. Alcoholism is often called a family disease because addiction affects the entire family. This article takes a detailed look at red wine and its health effects.


Broken promises of the past tell them that trusting someone will backfire on them in the future. Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University. Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research.


If you have an alcohol problem and you have children in the home, please try to find help. This is often a learned behavior in alcoholic households, where the entire family strives to keep the parent’s addiction secret. Having an alcoholic parent increases a child’s risk of being physically, sexually or emotionally abused, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adverse Childhood Experiences study.