Victims Of Family Alcholism: The Lasting Effects On Spouse And Children Stress Obligations And Consequences Part 3 Of 3

Alcoholism is a disease that affects the entire family of those involved. The responsibility of the non-alcoholic parent is often overwhelming, exhausting, and stressful and the lasting ramifications on children appear virutally irreversible.

Non-Alcoholic Parental Features

Spouses of alcoholics are also affected in a variety of negative ways. Stress marks the top of it all. According to Parsons (2003), the spouse may have feelings of hatred or self-pity, and may suffer exhaustion becoming physically or mentally ill. The non-alcoholic spouse finds that they must take on the role of being both parents. The responsibilities are overwhelming. Moreover, by the sober spouse taking on all obligations, the alcoholic parent has increased flexibility to be inconsistent, demanding, and neglectful (Parsons, 2003).

Financial problems may arise due to the ridiculous amount of money spent on alcohol, or because the alcoholic may be unemployed (Berger, 1993). This becomes a major stressor for the non-alcoholic parent involved. Another financial problem is that women, in particularly, involved in abusive-alcoholic homes may not have the means to get themselves and their children out of the situation. Lack of finances may leave the mother feeling hopeless, helpless, and regretful.

Denial of the alcoholics’ problem is most often exhibited by the spouse. Many families ignore the crisis and just deal with the repercussions in an attempt keep the family together. Denial is a catalyst to rationalize the problems (Parsons, 2003). This is understandable, but there comes a time when acknowledgement is crucial. Marital problems inevitably stem from alcoholism and it is also one of the major reasons for divorce.

Longstanding Effects and Ramifications

Adult children of alcoholics are at risk for an assortment of psychological, social, and emotional problems. The most prominent factor is a negative self-image and feelings of worthlessness and failure; many adult children of alcoholics do not attribute said troubles, feelings, and thoughts to growing up in an alcoholic household. However, commonalities include inability to trust, impulsive behavior, and problems with aggression and depression (Parsons, 2003).

Many adult children of alcoholics have difficulties with intimate relationships. Because they have been conditioned to distrust people through their childhood experiences, they believe that if they fall in love with someone they will inevitably be hurt. Moreover, many of those who do form intimate relationships find themselves with an alcoholic or individual who is abusive in some way (Wekesser, 1994). The uncertainty and confusion of being brought up in an alcoholic home teaches children to not trust themselves as well. Children’s emotions are manipulated often into believing nothing is wrong, or they are taught to suppress their emotions in order to conceal the family problem; this creates distrust of self. Many children of alcoholics find this distrust to carry over into adulthood. Without being able to trust themselves, they find they are not capable of handling uncomfortable emotions and this generates long-term problems with developing positive and healthy intimate relationships (Parsons, 2003).

Aggression in children of alcoholics leads to conduct disorders, but if left untreated, these disorders become exacerbated in adulthood. Childhood conduct disorders often develop into antisocial behavioral problems. Stress may be a factor in this development as adult children of alcoholics often do not know how to deal with stress in a positive and effective manner (Parsons, 2003).

Gender plays a role in problems of adult children of alcoholics. In one study, females were a higher risk for depression than males (Jacob, Windel, Seilhamer, & Bost, 1999). Males have higher rates of anxiety and introversion. Males also tend to see doctors more often than their non-alcoholic counterparts. Females may have reproductive problems and tend to see their gynecologists and obstetricians more often. Female adult children of alcoholics also have higher rates of eating disorders: bulimia and anorexia (Parsons, 2003).

Adult children of alcoholics often feel out of control, make poor career choices, and have feelings of worthlessness and failure. Many turn out to be parental failures as well. Not surprisingly, some have problems with abuse of psychoactive substances or alcoholism. Such adults have feelings of over-responsibility. Because there was such a lack of responsibility in their upbringing, they feel they have to compensate for it in adulthood (Berger, 1993). The list of problems with adult children of alcoholics goes on and on.

Treatment outcomes, for an adult not provided therapy in childhood, are mixed in research results. Some say that it is surely possible to overcome the long-standing effects of growing up in an alcoholic home. Others express that it is not completely successful. Parsons (2003) argues that family members, especially children, are so greatly affected that they may never recover from the pains inflicted upon them. This position is a depressing one but, further research on the nature and treatment of alcoholism may present future generations with a sunnier outlook.

References/Works Cited/Sources:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. (1997). Children of alcoholics. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from

Berger, G. (1993). Alcoholism and the family. New York: Franklin Watts.

Briere, J.N. (1992). Child abuse trauma: Theory and treatment of the lasting effects. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Chess, S., Thomas, A., Hertzig, M. (1988). Annual progress in child psychiatry and child development. New York: Psychology Press.

Jacob, T., Windle, M., Seilhamer, R., & Bost, J. (1999). Adult children of alcoholics: Drinking, psychiatric, and social status. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 13(1). Retrieved November 15, 2007, from PsycARTICLES database.

Jarmas, A., Kazak, A. (1992). Young adult children of alcoholic fathers: Depressive experiences, coping styles, and family systems. US: American Psychological Assn 60(2). Retrieved November 3, 2007, from PsycARTICLES database.

McGaha, J. Leoni, E. (1995). Family violence, abuse, and related family issues of incarcerated delinquents with alcoholic parents compare to those with nonalcoholic parents. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from

National Association for Children of Alcoholics. (1998). Children of alcoholics: Important facts. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2007). Children of alcoholics- are they different? Retrieved November 14, 2007, from cs/alerts/l/blnaa09.htm.

Parsons, T. (2003). Alcoholism and its effect on the family. AllPsych Journal. Retrieved October 31, 2007, from

Turney, L. (2007). Children of alcoholics: Getting past the games addicted parents play. Do It Now Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from pages/808.html.

Wekesser, C. (1994). Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc.

West, M., & Prinz, R. (1987). Parental alcoholism and childhood psychopathology. Psychological Bulletin, 102(2). Retrieved October 31, 2007, from PsycARTICLES database.

Silverstein, H. (1990). Alcoholism. New York: Franklin Watts.

Picture is courtesy of Stock.xhng. Photographer listed: hidesy

1 comment

Add a comment

0 answers +0 votes
Post comment Cancel
This comment has 0 votes  by
Posted on Dec 9, 2010