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Negative Effects of Parental Drinking

Parental Drinking Affects Children's Behavior

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Updated December 20, 2007

Scientific research continues to uncover ways in which children are affected by the drinking and behavior of their alcoholic parents and the news is bad for both sons and daughters.

In two recent studies published in the July issue of Alcohol Clinical and Experimental Research, indicate that not only can the behavior of drinking parents bring about early-childhood bouts of depression, but can effect the cognitive skills and IQ's of their children.

Children of "antisocial alcoholics" displayed the worst IQ and academic achievement in elementary school compared with children from families in which there were no alcoholics and even with children from families with "non-antisocial" drinking fathers.

Remarkably, the "antisocial" behavior of fathers can effect the very IQ test results of their children, according to the study.

Edwin Poon and his colleagues studied 198 elementary-age boys in their study, Intellectual, Cognitive, and Academic Performance Among Sons of Alcoholics During the Early School Years: Differences Related to Subtypes of Familial Alcoholism.

"Findings indicate that children from anti-social alcoholic families are most susceptible to relative intellectual, cognitive, and academic deficits." the study concluded. "Familial risk characteristics (i.e., paternal alcoholism and antisociality) may serve as effective indicators of family risk for poor intellectual outcome among offspring as early as the elementary school years."

Depressing Signals

A second study -- Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Depressive Features in Children -- also published in July by Mary J. O'Connor and Connie Kasari examined the association between prenatal alcohol exposure and self-report of depressive symptoms in 5- to 6-year-old children.

Results revealed that prenatal alcohol exposure, maternal depression, and child gender seemed to be highly associated with child depressive symptoms. Girls who had higher levels of prenatal alcohol exposure and whose mothers acknowledged higher levels of depression indicated the highest number of depressive symptoms.

The study followed 41 mothers and children from the time the children were one year old, until they were in elementary school. Strangely neither the mother's behavior in interaction with the child nor her current level of alcohol consumption changed the relationship between prenatal drinking and later depression symptoms in the daughters.

In other words, children whose mothers drank while they were pregnant, exhibited signs of early depression, no matter how they were treated after they were born, or if the mother stop drinking.

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