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Parental Alcoholism and Children's Emotional Wellbeing

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Alcoholism is a widespread problem that affects not only individuals but also their families, particularly children. Growing up with parents who struggle with alcohol addiction can have long-lasting and detrimental impact on children’s emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing. This article explores the negative impact of parent’s alcoholism on children, shedding light on the severe emotional consequences they face.


Parental Alcoholism and Emotional Trauma


Living with alcoholic parents exposes children to an unstable and unpredictable environment. Constant exposure to arguments, violence and neglect can lead to emotional trauma and profound stress. Children often experience feelings of fear, anxiety and guilt, as they blame themselves for their parents’ addiction. This emotional turmoil can hinder their ability to form healthy relationships, leading to difficulties in establishing trust and maintaining emotional stability later in life.

Alcoholism often leads to neglect and abuse within the family. Parents who struggle with alcohol addiction may prioritise their substance use over their children’s needs, such as basic care, nutrition and emotional support. Neglected children may suffer from malnutrition, hygiene issues and lack of supervision, impacting their physical health and development. Moreover, they are at a higher risk of experiencing physical and verbal abuse, further exacerbating their emotional distress.

The emotional trauma experienced during childhood can lead to long-term emotional difficulties, including low self-esteem, anxiety disorders, depression and hardships in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.


Parental Alcoholism and Emotional Development of Children


Children of alcoholic parents often experience emotional instability due to the inconsistent and unpredictable actions of their parents. They may witness extreme emotional highs and lows, ranging from moments of affection to outbursts of aggression, anger or sadness. This constant inconsistency in emotions can create a sense of confusion and instability in children, making it challenging for them to develop a stable emotional foundation.

The chaotic environment associated with parental alcoholism can interfere with children’s ability to effectively regulate their own emotions. They may struggle with managing intense emotions like anger, fear or sadness. The lack of appropriate and consistent emotional modeling from parents can hinder children’s ability to understand and cope with their own feelings. As a result, they may resort to maladaptive coping mechanisms or exhibit emotional outbursts, making it challenging to navigate social situations and form healthy relationships.


Effects of Alcoholic Parents on Children’s Social Skills


Parental alcoholism can impact a child’s ability to develop social skills and empathy. The emotional turmoil within the family may divert their attention away from understanding and empathising with the emotions and needs of other people. They may become self-focused as a mean of self-preservation, leading to difficulties in forming genuine connections with peers. The impaired empathy and social skills can compromise their ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Children who grow up with alcoholic parents may develop trust and attachment issues due to inconsistency of their parents’ behaviour. The lack of physical and emotional availability of parents can hinder the development of secure attachment. They may struggle with forming trusting relationships, fearing abandonment or betrayal. These issues can extend into adulthood, impacting their ability to form intimate and meaningful connections with others.


The negative impact of parents’ alcoholism on children is far-reaching and deeply damaging. Children raised in such environment can face emotional trauma, neglect and abuse that can have long-lasting effects. Raising awareness about detrimental effects of parental alcoholism and reducing stigma around addiction can help families to reach out for help and protect children from the devastating consequences of alcoholism.



Parental Alcoholism and Emotional Wellbeing of Children. Iremia Counselling

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