Growing Up in an Alcoholic Family

teen boy

Kids who grow up in alcoholic families are more likely than the rest to become alcoholics themselves. This, we’ve known for some time. It’s not always due to dysfunctional home life, either. Sometimes it’s genetic; even the most loving, caring parents may struggle to keep their children from repeating their fate. More often than not, it’s a combination of problematic home elements and genetics. The best thing you can do as a parent is open up as many lines of communication as possible, with your child and with the rest of the family.

Characteristics of an Alcoholic Family

Generally, a child born in an alcoholic family is, indeed, aware of the split personalities the alcoholic exhibits. The non-drinking side, they often revere as a source of comfort and affection; the other, they often fear, or even hate. Family or origin issues and alcoholism are connected.

When recovering moms and dads go through their ups and downs, so does the family: from a drunken family unit to a sober one. On the outside, they often appear similar. Intrinsically, a shift is apparent, and the child can usually feel it.

Increased Risk for Alcoholism

30 million of all active alcoholics in the US are born of alcoholic families; their odds are 3 to 4 times higher than the rest. The root of alcoholism, it seems, lies in suppressed emotions, which may or not have to do with a problematic upbringing. It is widely believed that the alcohol-seeking behavior, although physiologically addictive, is a learned behavior, an unhealthy coping skill used to alleviate the real unifying issue: suppressed emotions and anxieties.  

Common Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics

At its base, alcoholism is caused by fear: fear of facing the world in all its clear, sober reality. Fear branches out into a number of aspects in our lives—intimacy, change, love, determination. When we can’t pursue these natural emotional pursuits the right way, we misstep, and that’s where typical “alcoholic behavior” comes in: aggression, manipulation, indifference, or even cruelty. Once children adopt these habits, you have to undo them quickly, because once they grow up, they might assume that those traits have become their identity. At that point, you need stern behavioral intervention. Therapy works to address and correct those issues, to make the person understand that their negative emotions aren’t correct, necessary, conducive; that they can change and feel better, and for good reason.


If you are struggling with a family history of alcohol or substance abuse and need support, call us. We are here to help you find your way back to a healthy lifestyle away from the shadows of substance abuse.