Newsroom > DHHS News Release

February 14, 2011

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047

Alcoholism in the Family Negatively Impacts Children

February 13-19 is Children of Alcoholics Week

Lincoln—Almost one in five adults in the U.S. lived with an alcoholic parent or caregiver while growing up, and one in four children is currently affected by family alcoholism.

“Children of alcoholics are at greater risk for having emotional problems, including anxiety disorders and depression,” said Scot L. Adams, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “They can bear lifelong psychological scars and have a higher likelihood of being alcoholics themselves.”

The Division of Behavioral Health is responsible for mental health, substance abuse and problem gambling services.

A child in a family with a person with alcoholism may experience:

  • Guilt: The child may think he or she is the cause of a parent’s drinking.

  • Anxiety: The child may worry constantly about the situation at home.

  • Embarrassment: The ashamed child doesn’t invite friends over and is afraid to ask anyone for help.

  • Inability to have close relationships: Because the child has been repeatedly disappointed by the drinking parent, he or she does not trust others.

  • Confusion: An alcoholic parent may change suddenly from being loving to angry, regardless of the child’s behavior.

  • Anger: The child feels anger at the alcoholic parent for drinking, and may be angry at the non-alcoholic parent for lack of protection.

  • Depression: The child feels lonely and helpless to change the situation.

“I grew up in a home with alcoholism and I know the impact this disease can have,” Adams said. “I also know that friends, family and the support of others through Al-Anon and Ala-teen can have a dramatic positive effect.”

A child from a family with alcoholism may display these negative behaviors:

  • Failure in school
  • Social withdrawal
  • Delinquent behavior, like stealing
  • Frequent physical complaints, like headaches or stomachaches
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Aggression toward other children
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Perfectionism
  • Overachievement

Children of Alcoholics Week celebrates the recovery of the many thousands of children (of all ages) who have received the help they needed to recover from the pain and losses suffered in their childhood, and it offers hope to those still suffering from the negative consequences of parental alcohol addiction.

“The children of alcoholics can benefit from mutual-help groups like Al-Anon and Ala-teen. Therapy can also help them realize they are not responsible for the drinking problem of their parents,” Adams said.