Alcoholism or an addiction to alcohol is a common problem in many homes, and unfortunately this problem often affects the entire family of the alcoholic, including the children. Someone with an addiction to alcohol may be consistently intoxicated and because of that, they may be abusive or withdrawn around their family. They may also spend large sums of money on supporting their habit rather than supporting their family.
Statistics That Matter
To emphasize the dangers of alcoholism in a home when it comes to the safety and welfare of the children, consider some shocking statistics about children of alcoholics and about alcoholism overall.
1. Some 6.6 million children live in a home with at least one alcoholic parent.
2. Researchers have said that alcoholism is typically accompanied by other problems related to their addiction, including a lack of effective communication, nonexistent parenting skills, homes with no set schedules, structure or discipline, escalated conflict in the home including fighting and arguing, family isolation in the community because of the abuse of alcohol, and financial issues.
3. Some 59.5% of women and 72% of men drink at least once every year.
4. Over 22% of women and 42% of men who drink every year reported having three or more drinks on the day they drank.
5. Binge drinking, or drinking excessively to the point of being intoxicated, was at an even higher number. Some 29% of women and 43% of men said that they would binge drink when they drank in the past year.
6. It’s estimated that one in four children in the U.S. is exposed to alcohol abuse in the home.
7. According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol abuse costs the U.S. about $185 billion each year. This includes motor vehicle accidents, crime related to alcohol use and abuse, premature death, preventable healthcare costs, and lost productivity.
8. Some 9% of the U.S. population meets the criteria for being deemed dependent on alcohol, while only about 2% are considered addicted to narcotics.
9. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to grow up to be alcoholics themselves, when compared to the general population.
10. Children who begin drinking as teens are four times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol as adults, when compared to the general population.
11. Children of alcoholics are more likely to suffer from mood disorders such as anxiety and clinical depression. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with conduct disorder, or chronic behavior that is marked by drug use, criminal activity, truancy, and general rule breaking. If left untreated, conduct disorder can lead to an antisocial personality disorder for adults, which in turn can lead to criminal behavior and a general disregard for the rights and feelings of others.
12. Having an alcoholic parent increases the risk of a child being mentally, emotionally, physically and sexually abused threefold, compared to the general population.
13. Nearly 2.5 million people die each year in alcohol-related incidents; some 800,000 of these are in the U.S.
14. Overdrinking is accountable for some one million emergency room visits and some three million doctor’s visits in the U.S. every year.
15. Alcohol abuse is connected to liver damage including cirrhosis of the liver, and may also be a factor in certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and anemia.
16. It’s estimated that 43% of Americans have a close relative who is an alcoholic, including a parent, sibling, grandparent, or child. This number also includes spouses who are alcoholics.
17. One-half of all traffic fatalities and one-third of all traffic injuries in the U.S. are directly related to alcohol.
18. Accidents and suicides related to alcohol are said to affect teens more so than adults who abuse alcohol.
19. Children of alcoholics are three times more likely to marry those with an alcohol abuse problem, when compared to the general population.
20. Crime statistics show the damage of alcohol abuse. Alcohol plays a key role in some 68% of manslaughter cases, 62% of assault cases, 54% of murder cases and attempted murder cases, 48% of reported robbery cases, and 44% of reported burglary cases.
21. High rates of alcohol abuse are frequently documented in studies of family violence.
22. Children of alcoholics often report high rates of aggression and impulsive behaviors.
23. Substance abuse is a factor in some 81% of child abuse cases reported to state agencies.
24. Alcohol abuse is much more prevalent in cases of child abuse than any other factor, such as parental depression or teen parenting.
25. Young children of alcoholics often present with signs of anxiety and depression. These may include bed wetting, consistent crying, lack of friends and a social circle, fear of going to school, and persistent nightmares. Older children of alcoholics often spend time by themselves and may often shut themselves off in their own rooms. Depressive symptoms that are prevalent in teens of alcoholics may include perfectionism, hoarding, isolation, being self-conscious, and the development of excessive phobias and fears.
26. Children of alcoholics often suffer from more physical and mental distresses than other children. Inpatient rates, or the number of children admitted to the hospital, are some triple that compared to children without an alcoholic parents. For mental disorders the number is about double. Children of alcoholics also suffer injuries at about one and a half times more than other children.
27. Total costs for healthcare for children of alcoholics is about 32% greater than children without an alcoholic in the family.
28. Children of alcoholics tend to score lower when it comes to verbal skills and cognitive ability. This can interfere with their performance at school and with interpersonal relationships and friendships. In later life it can also interfere with their ability to handle job interviews.
Additional Facts and Statistics
Despite these disturbing statistics, children of alcoholics are not locked into repeating this same pattern of behavior once they reach adulthood. While many adult children of alcoholics do struggle to maintain normal, healthy relationships and to overcome the challenges of their childhood, it is possible for them to move forward and have success both personally and professionally.
Many experts state that while children can learn alcohol abuse from their parents, genetics do play a role in their addiction. Children with a genetic predisposition to addiction are more prone to repeat their parent’s pattern of alcohol abuse as opposed to children without this predisposition.
Support during childhood and adolescence also plays a role in a child overcoming their handicaps when raised by an alcoholic parent. For example, grandparents and older siblings can provide a supportive environment for a child and may be instrumental in protecting them from the abuse that many children of alcoholics suffer.
Groups designed to give support to children of alcoholics can also be helpful. These groups can identify the common struggles of these children and give them to tools needed to change their thinking when it comes to their self-esteem and destructive patterns of behavior. Many schools also offer education regarding alcohol abuse and its dangers, and public service announcements have also become common in certain areas.
These support groups are only effective if children of alcoholics take advantage of them. It’s vital that those raised in this type of environment recognize the dangers of repeating these behaviors in their own life as adults and with their own families. They also need to recognize any predisposition toward alcohol abuse for themselves; many children of alcoholics choose to forego drinking altogether so that they reduce their risk of becoming addicted.
Children of alcoholics also do well to seek treatment at the first sign of addiction themselves. If they find that they are drinking on a regular basis and if their drinking causes them to become abusive toward their own family or has cost them relationships or jobs, they would do well to seek out counseling and support. The addiction itself has physical causes but it can be treated through regular counseling and behavior modification. This in turn will stop the cycle of alcohol abuse and can protect their own children and family from the harmful effects of addiction.
Behavior and Effects of Alcohlism
Many alcoholics also rely on their family for their everyday needs and this can rob a child of his or her adolescence. As an example, an alcoholic parent may expect a child to cook and clean when he or she is not able because of being intoxicated. An alcoholic parent may ask a child to phone their place of employment and make excuses for their absence or to clean up after them when they’ve gotten sick after drinking. This can not only keep a child from their educational pursuits but may also put a tremendous emotional burden on them, as they become the caretakers of the parents.
In many cases violent behavior also accompanies alcoholism, as alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions overall. A parent who is intoxicated may be more likely to be abusive to a child, and this includes physical and sexual abuse. They may also be negligent when it comes to abusive behavior from others in the home, for example, ignoring signs of abuse on the part of a stepparent, boyfriend or girlfriend of the parent, or a sibling.
Unfortunately this cycle of abuse can continue with a child when he or she grows up, as they may learn this behavior from parents. Drinking may seem very normal to him or her and they may become so accustomed to being a caretaker of the parent that they transfer this behavior to others as adults, seeking out relationships where they feel needed and relied upon. They too may learn abusive and violent behaviors from the parent.