There are millions of children who unfortunately grow up in homes where alcohol is too present. When this happens, children are more likely to have cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems. They will also have genetic and environmental risks of becoming alcoholics themselves in their adult life.
Although many of these children develop serious problems, many of them live the experience of growing up in a home with an alcohol-dependent parent without developing psychopathology or substance abuse problems. The most common is that they present some problems, some of which we will comment below.
- Worst IQ. One study found that total IQ, performance, and verbal scores were lower among children raised by alcoholic parents, compared with those raised by nonalcoholic parents.
- Performance within normal ranges. Although children in families with alcoholic parents may have lower IQs, their intelligence does not really have to be affected by their experiences.
- Underrated skills. Children of alcoholic parents underestimate their own competence. Alcoholic parents also underestimate their children’s abilities. These perceptions can affect your children’s motivation, self-esteem, and future unemployment.
- Academic problems. Academic performance, rather than IQ scores, may be a better measure of the effects of living with an alcoholic parent. Many children of alcoholics have academic problems. Those problems include: failing subjects, school failure, dropping out of studies. Motivational difficulties and stress in the family environment can contribute to academic problems, although cognitive deficits may be partially to blame.
- Higher prevalence of depression, anxiety. Parental alcoholism is linked to a series of psychological disorders in children. The emotional functioning of children of alcoholics can be adversely affected by divorce, parental anxiety or affective disorders , or undesirable changes in the family or in life situations. Children who grow up in homes with alcohol-dependent parents will have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and show symptoms of generalized stress compared to families where there is no alcohol.
- Extreme depression Children of alcoholic parents have more symptoms of depression than children who grow up in homes without addictions. Also, children who grow up when one parent is an alcoholic can be diagnosed with conduct disorder. They may have more hyperactive and impulsive behaviors than children who grow up in homes without alcohol in their parents’ lives.
- Behavior problems The behavior problems of children of alcoholic parents often include: delinquency, school behavior problems, rebellion, bad behavior, disruptive behaviors, etc.
- Increased crime, truancy. Children of alcoholic parents are at increased risk for delinquency and truancy. Parental alcohol abuse is linked to diagnosed conduct disorders in children of alcoholics. Families of alcoholics have lower levels of: family cohesion, expressiveness, independence, emotional bond, intellectual orientation.
- Disruption of family life. Alcoholic families have higher levels of conflict, impaired problem-solving ability, and hostile communication, but those problems are found in problem families other than alcohol. However, in an alcoholic home , the parents’ continuous drinking contributes to the disruption of family life.
- Effects of family dysfunction. Some of the problems faced by children of alcoholics may not be primarily related to alcoholism in the family itself, but to the social and psychological dysfunction that an alcoholic household can produce. For example, one study found that children with alcoholic parents are less likely to become alcoholics if their parents consistently make and follow plans and maintain family rituals such as drinking meals or partying.