Young Children of Alcoholics

Children in alcoholic homes learn very early to adopt a role on the merry-go-round or adjust as dysfunction intensifies.


Many studies have found that children of problem drinkers are at increased risk of a range of problems during childhood. These can be grouped under three main headings: (Velleman, 1993)


Anti-social Behavior


There is a raised risk of aggressive Behavior towards others, hyperactivity and other forms of conduct disorder.


Emotional problems


These include a wider range of psychosomatic problems from asthma to bedwetting; negative attitudes to their parents and themselves, high levels of self-blame; withdrawal and depression.


School environment


Learning difficulties, reading retardation, loss of concentration; generally poor school performance, aggression and truancy.


Children learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs.

  • They become survivors.

  • They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions.

  • They detach themselves.

  • They don’t talk.

  • They don’t touch.

  • They don’t confront.

  • They don’t feel.

  • They don’t trust.

An Australian survey of ‘Childline’ callers revealed that parental alcohol misuse was an issue across almost the entire range of problems children cited, including running away, violence in the home, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and poor family relationships (Tomison, 1996).


Common presenting problems are;

  • Physical signs of abuse

  • Fetal Alcohol symptoms

  • Depression, anxiety, anger

Obviously intervention with young children needs to be initiated through parents or carers. This is best done with a non-alcoholic family representative.

See also; The Dynamics of an Alcoholic Family


From BriefTSF manuals


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