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The Family

How Does Alcohol Affect the World of a Child?


Updated November 26, 2003

"I've seen alcohol at work in my family and that's enough for a lifetime. I'm not drinking." —Matthew, Michigan

  • Current research suggests children are less likely to drink when their parents are involved with them and when they and their parents report feeling close to each other.1, 2

  • Adolescents drink less and have fewer alcohol-related problems when their parents discipline them consistently and set clear expectations.1

  • Nearly 17 percent of children under 14 and 20 percent of children under 18 live with a parent (or responsible adult) who drinks heavily or has an alcohol problem.3

  • Parents' drinking behaviors and favorable attitudes about drinking have been associated with adolescents' initiating and continuing drinking.1, 4, 5

  • The immediate family members of alcoholics are 2 to 7 times more likely than the general population to develop problems with alcohol during their lifetime.6, 7

  • Drinking during pregnancy has been associated not only with fetal alcohol syndrome but with offspring learning and behavioral problems into adolescence.8

  • Elevated rates of alcoholism are consistently found in parents of youth with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).9

1 Hawkins, J.D., et al. Exploring the effects of age of alcohol use initiation and psychosocial risk factors on subsequent alcohol misuse. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 58(3):280-290, 1997.

2 Resnick, M.D., et al. Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association 278(10):823-832, 1997.

3 Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. [Number of children living with parent who has alcohol problem.] Unpublished data, 1999. Based on National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey.

4 Andrews, J.A., et al. Parental influence on early adolescent substance use: Specific and nonspecific effects. Journal of Early Adolescence 13(3):285-310, 1993.

6 Cotton, N.S. Familial incidence of alcoholism: A review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 40:89-116, 1979.

7 Merikangas, K.R. Genetic epidemiology of alcoholism. Psychological Medicine 20(1):11-22, 1990.

8 Olson, H.C., et al. Association of prenatal alcohol exposure with behavioral and learning problems in early adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 36(9):1187-1194, 1997.

9 Wilens T.E., et al. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and the psychoactive substance use disorders. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 5(1):73-91, 1996. Back to 'The World of a Child'

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