What Are the Effects on the Children of Alcoholics?

What Are the Effects on the Children of Alcoholics?

When an individual drinks, the effects are rarely limited to that person alone. Unfortunately, alcohol addiction tends to have a ripple effect that expands outward — impacting the lives of the person’s spouse, children, family, and friends says a Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Mick Mickelsen. The impact can be especially tough on kids. In fact, the children of alcoholics are more likely than their peers to develop an alcohol problem later in life.

Children of alcoholics are also vulnerable to other types of emotional problems. Here is a brief list of issues that can affect a child of someone who struggles with an addiction to alcohol.

More Likely to Drink as an Adult

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), one in five adults grew up with an alcoholic relative. “Alcoholism runs in families, and children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves.” Obviously, this sets up kids with a burden to overcome down the road. If they find themselves battling their own addiction to alcohol, they may feel as though they’re fighting a losing battle after watching a parent struggle to overcome alcoholism.

The children of alcoholics are also at a higher risk of all types of substance abuse, including drug abuse. Because their home life may be unpleasant, they may seek to self-medicate or seek solace through the use of drugs or alcohol.

Emotional Abuse

The AACAP also states that the children of alcoholics must often contend with a range of stressful emotions other children don’t experience — either due to an alcoholic parents’ emotional instability, or the child’s own emotional experiences. For example, kids of alcoholics may feel guilty about their parent’s drinking and may even blame themselves for it.

These children may also feel intense anxiety about a parent’s drinking problem, especially in situations where the alcoholic parent becomes very ill or violent when they consume too much alcohol. Children can also feel embarrassment about a parent’s drinking habit. Shame can cause a child to go to great lengths to conceal their parent’s alcoholism from friends, teachers, and even potential sources of help.

Difficulty in School

When a child has an alcoholic parent, he or she may also perform poorly in school. Because alcoholics can be unstable in the workplace, they may have a tough time holding down a steady job. This can cause a domino effect of problems, including financial difficulties that spill over to their kids. When children don’t have a stable home life, enough food to eat, and a regular, healthy routine, they frequently encounter difficulty when it comes to concentrating in school, doing homework, and functioning in the classroom. The children of alcoholics are more likely to be excessively tardy, to withdraw from friends, and to show aggression toward other students.

On the flipside, it’s also possible for children of alcoholics to take things to the other extreme by attempting to control their environment. Because they feel out of control at home, they may attempt to exert excessive control in situations in which they are free from the alcoholic parent’s influence. As the AACAP states, “They may become controlled, successful ‘overachievers’ throughout school, and at the same time be emotionally isolated from other children and teachers. Their emotional problems may show only when they become adults.”

This desire to control their environment can make it difficult for the children of alcoholics to relax. As much as being focused and in control can be a positive thing, an inability to enjoy downtime can lead to extreme stress and even problems with physical and emotional health. This imbalance can drive a child to seek control even in situations where it’s inappropriate to do so, such as trying to control another person’s actions or behavior.

Relationship Problems Later in Life

The children of alcoholics can also have difficulty forming personal relationships. Kids who grow up with an alcoholic parent often learn that they can’t always depend on their parent to be stable or supportive. As they get older and begin forming friendships and intimate relationships, they may have difficulty trusting other people and developing a commitment to stay in a long-term relationship.

Trouble Controlling Impulses

Spontaneity can be a positive thing, but a lack of impulse control can lead to serious problems in a person’s life. Unfortunately, the children of alcoholics sometimes develop issues surrounding impulse control.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this reliance on emotion rather than logic can be hereditary, which may explain why the children of alcoholics sometimes go on to develop alcoholism later in life. Researchers also believe that a chemical component in the brain can make it difficult for an individual to regulate their impulses, which might predispose a person toward drinking too much as a teen or young adult.

Broden & Mickelsen
Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers in Dallas

Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
2600 State St Dallas, Texas 75204
Main Phone: (214) 720-9552


Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.


  1. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-Of-Alcoholics-017.aspx
  2. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-3/247.pdf

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.