Children of alcoholics


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The person’s health is based on the stage of creating his parents reproductive cells and mostly depends on the way the formation of the fetus of a future baby and birth activity. After the birth of a child his health will be influenced by the environment he lives in.

At all periods of human life alcohol is a damaging, toxic factor for his life. Can chronic alcoholism cause particular deceases in future generation? Or can children of alcoholics inherit high sensitivity to alcohol?

Hippocrates once said, “hard drinking is the reason why children are weak and get often sick”. Back in those days people noticed the poisonous effect of alcohol on mental and physical health of future generation.

Сhildren of alcoholic parents

A lot of researches  findings point out  that the most harmful effect on children has the fact when alcoholism affects the whole family. Some researchers believe that  problem drinking always runs in families. Goodwin, American researcher, who studied alcoholism, pointed out that, although alcoholism runs in families it is not inherited by the children of alcoholics. He emphasized the importance to determine if alcoholism was inherited or became a result of mistakes in bringing up a child.

What kind of children can alcoholics give birth to?

In families of drinking parents premature and stillborn babies are born two times more often that in families of non-drinking people. The death rate of babies before the age of three is higher three times, comparing to non-drinking families.

According to the research findings where 18 women who drink alcohol were examined, out of 98 pregnancies, 51 were stopped by abortion and 5 led to miscarriages.

Children, born to heavy drinkers, suffer from the early age from excessive excitability of autonomic nervous system, motor dysfunction, disturbed sleep, frequent attacks of loud cry that can lead to hysterics.

Children, born to mothers with the 2 or 3 stages of alcoholism, have more serious disorders of central nervous system which are of organic origin. 6,7% of children born to alcoholics suffer from spasmodic seizures. More than 10% of children of alcoholics develop epilepsy in the early age because of their parents’ addiction.

School age children of alcoholics display such symptoms as easy fatigability, disturbance of sleep, sleep walking and nightmares. Those children are timid, emotionally unstable, often depressed. Some of the children of alcoholics have physical disorders, such as poor muscles development, poor subcutaneous fat etc. children of alcoholics often suffer from different mental disorders and developmental delay, and therefore cannot study the proper way at school.

Such personal traits as stubbornness, tendency to have conflicts, inadequate actions are observed in children from the families where the parents are alcoholics. Children like those very often leave home young and start drinking alcohol themselves.

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Psychological aspects of family alcoholism

Alcoholism is undoubtedly a disease. But it is different from other diseases with affecting not only the one who drinks alcohol, but his whole family. More than others, suffer the children of alcoholics, growing in families like those.

The environment of families with the drinking family member is often locked up and carefully protected from the outside. Close family members of alcoholics are often ashamed of their problem and hide the alcohol addiction of their relative.

Sons and daughters of alcoholics have to get used to living in atmosphere of lies and constant keeping back. As a result their mental health becomes unstable. Drinking parents, when they are sober, use their children as an anchor, to keep themselves from complete degradation. Being drunk alcoholic parents forget about their children existence, or on the contrary, bother their children with overprotection.

From the young age children of alcoholics are ashamed of their parents, many of them not understanding why at the very beginning. These children are different from children of the families where parents don’t drink alcohol and have poor socialization skills.

Drinking parents not only cause the feeling of shame and poor ability to socialize in their children. In families, where one or more members are alcoholics fights, physical, psychological abuse, humiliation and beating are usual. Children of alcoholics are both scared of their parents and worried about their parents’ health and life. It is not surprising that those children are not self-confident. Not being able to make any change in their life, those children hide the problem becoming aggressive or start living in their imaginary world.

Children of alcoholics are very much alike to a puppy, which can be either petted, beaten or just ignored. Children cannot figure out what they are supposed to do to get their parents’ love. The worst thing is that there is no answer to this question, because alcohol makes parents’ perception unpredictable. Furthermore, the youngest members of the family have to hide family secret in order not to fall into contempt and feeling cruelty of their peers.

Children always have some respect to their parents and the youngest members of the family copy stereotypes of adults’ behavior, whatever it is. Only after becoming an adolescent, children  find other  idols, they can take an example from. But even then, children of alcoholics choose subconsciously to behave like their parents. Such stereotype almost always becomes a life style and children of parents who drink eventually start drinking at relatively early age themselves. Heredity, poor diet, psychiatric problems are the main factors in developing alcohol addiction in children of alcoholics.

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Children of alcoholics statistics diseases

We can say that alcoholism runs in a family if a woman is addicted to alcohol. Mainly, because a woman is a mother. Drinking woman can’t bear a healthy child. In a period from 1967 to 1971, 3300 women that had therapy to quit drinking alcohol, were examined on the case of having somatic pathology. The findings showed that 795 woman had an early menopause, 545 had their period impairment, 441 had cardiovascular diseases, 319 had gastrointestinal diseases, 328 had liver lesion and 392 had urogenital system diseases.

Therefore, 2813 women out of 3300 being examined, which is 85,3% had different somatic disorders and diseases. Can women like these have sustainable generation? Taking in account the fact that all women were of fertile age. 57% of them started drinking alcohol at the age of 20, moreover, 20 % of them were introduced to alcohol by their drinking relatives.

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Adult children of alcoholics: Behavioral models

Psychologists distinguished several major types of behavior that children of alcoholics choose for themselves:

  • “A hero”. Children and parents exchange their social roles in this case. A child becomes the responsible for everyday routine and does all chores himself. The child takes care both of his parents, being negligent and the house.
  • “A scape goat”. The child becomes a “scape goat” in a family constantly experiencing his drunk parents’ ungrounded anger and criticism.
  • “A dreamer”. A child who choose this model often lives in an imaginary world because he does not feel protected and comfortable in the real world. It is hard for him to define his place in a family and in society and even does not want to do it.
  • “I am allowed whatever I want”. A spoilt child, whose parent let him do anything he wants because they feel guilty for drinking alcohol. Children like those, have no idea about social rules and principles of interpersonal communication.

Children of alcoholics are more likely to become drug addicts and stay single. According to a survey, only 56% of boys and 60% of girls from families where parents are alcoholics, didn’t try drugs. Children, raised in families of heavy drinkers, get married much more rare than their peers from non-alcoholic families. The reason is difficulty in building relationship and over-romanticizing of a marriage.

Grown up children of alcoholics develop a number of fears in their childhood (if it can be called so). Low self-esteem and anxiety are among them. Whatever the model of the child’s behavior from the family of alcoholics is, an attempt of hiding the family tragedy for a person, growing up in atmosphere of alcohol addiction is like a circle without no exit. One can get out of situation like this only by getting support of psychiatrist or psychologist. The right therapist can help and support the alcoholic himself, his family, and what is more important – his children. With having therapy at the right time, children of alcoholics can get a chance to grow up decent people, who are able to understand themselves as well as other people.

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