How Are Children Affected by Alcoholic Parents?


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Children of alcoholic parents can show a variety of emotional and psychological issues, which typically include guilt regarding the parent's drinking, anxiety and fear, embarrassment, anger and depression. Children of alcoholic parents often have difficulty trusting others. These emotional issues can lead to problems at school, withdrawal from friends, delinquent behavior, stress-based physical complaints, drug or alcohol abuse, and aggressive or risky behavior.

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The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry points out that 20 percent of children in the United States grow up with an alcoholic relative. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop substance abuse problems than are other children.

Alcoholic parents often neglect their children. This emotional and physical neglect disrupts the normal bonding process between parents and children and leads to further emotional problems for the children. These neglected children are often mistrustful of others, cannot understand their own or others' emotions, have limited empathy, display a lack of confidence, have diminished social skills and show impaired social cognition.

Sometimes, children of alcoholic parents compensate for their parents' neglect by taking on the parental role in the family and even with their friends. They may act as caregivers to their siblings and even to their parents. As a result of this so-called parentification, children can become overly controlling and emotionally isolated from others.

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