Toxic Effects of Alcoholism on Families: The Statistics

Alcohol abuse ravages families, leaving long-lasting emotional scars. Families are a unit, and when one individual is hurting and acting destructively, it impacts everyone. Here are just some of the effects of alcoholism on families.

Marriage and Alcoholism Statistics: Does Alcohol Break Up Relationships?

“He’s a happy drunk.” “She’s an angry drunk.” Whatever the case may be, will they eventually be an “alone drunk?” Research says perhaps, but not necessarily.

  • One study found heterosexual couples are three times more likely to divorce when the woman drinks heavily and the man drinks lightly.
  • The same study found the marriage between two heavy drinkers is at greater risk for divorce than marriage between two light drinkers.
  • In 66% of reported spousal or partner domestic violence incidents, the perpetrator had been drinking, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • 44.9% of Al-Anon members were most affected by a husband or fiancé with a drinking problem, according to a 2015 survey.
  • 95% of Al-Anon members experienced emotional abuse from the problem drinker in their life and 94% of Al-Anon members experienced verbal abuse from the problem drinker in their life, according to the same survey.

Behind the Numbers

No one’s saying alcohol does relationships any favors. However, researchers found it’s the amount of alcohol imbibed by both parties that seem to predict divorce. While the effects of alcohol on families where one spouse drinks more than the other are detrimental, if both people in a relationship abuse alcohol in similar quantities, they have a greater chance of staying together. Couples who drink lightly or not at all still have a greater chance of staying together than heavy drinkers – not to mention an escape from some of the physical, emotional, social and financial problems that put a strain on relationships.

Alcohol can also fuel arguments and grease the wheels for emotional, verbal and physical abuse in relationships already struggling with these issues. While data is conflicting about whether alcohol abuse leads to domestic violence, research shows that alcohol is at least involved in many incidents of violence between partners, namely men assaulting women.

Children And Alcoholism Statistics: How Does Alcoholism Affect Kids?

Perhaps the most devastating effects of alcoholism on families are the consequences for children caught in the crossfire. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports:

  • 1 in 4 children live in a household where a parent or other adult is a binge drinker or heavy drinker.
  • Children with parents addicted to alcohol are three to four times more likely than their peers to abuse alcohol.
  • 70% of child maltreatment cases involving sexual and physical abuse occur in families where parents abuse substances; this increases the chances that a child will use alcohol or other drugs. * Daughters of alcoholics are twice as likely to marry alcoholic men, according to one study.
  • 41.9% and 21.7% of Al-Anon members were most affected by a father/stepfather or mother/stepmother (respectively) with a drinking problem, according to a 2015 survey.

Behind the Numbers

Parents who abuse alcohol are putting their kids at risk for a number of problems. If you grow up in a home where one or both parents have an alcohol addiction, research shows you’re at greater risk for emotional issues than people who grow up in homes without substance abuse. That’s because children of alcoholics sometimes internalize these issues, blaming themselves for their parents’ substance misuse. They then pay the emotional price for it by being at greater risk for issues like depression and socially deviant behavior. They may also experience academic problems, anxiety, low self-esteem, and behavioral problems.

The effects of alcoholism on families runs deep, even showing up in future relationships with significant others. One study found low levels of marital satisfaction and intimacy as well as increased physical aggression in a marriage among people who grew up with a parent who abused alcohol. Children of alcoholics may also be more anxious in romantic relationships and exhibit “love avoidant” attachment styles. This makes it difficult to have honest, intimate connections with others.

Family Genetics And Alcoholism: Can You Inherit Alcoholism?

The “nurture versus nature” debate is alive and well in studies that examine the effects of alcoholism on families. If a family member abuses substances, you’re not necessarily destined for the same boozy fate, but your chances are greater than those without a history of family addiction.

  • Genetics account for 50-60% of the risk for developing alcoholism.

Behind the Numbers

Some of the first “twin studies” on alcoholism were done in the 1970s. Since then, several studies have shown similar results. In a nutshell, these studies show that when one identical twin has an alcohol use disorder, it’s at least 50% likely the other twin will also have an alcohol problem. The reason this is significant is because identical twins share identical genetic profiles. We see these results even when the twins are separated from each other via adoption and the prevalence goes down in fraternal twins, who share less DNA (the same amount as non-twin siblings).

Researchers also point to parent-child alcoholism links. If your biological parent is an alcoholic, data suggests you’re at least twice as likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Researchers found more than half of adopted children developed alcoholism even though they grew up without their addicted biological parents.

Beating The Alcoholism Statistics

Whether you’re struggling with alcohol abuse or someone you love is addicted to alcohol, you don’t have to become a statistic. Addiction treatment helps repair families. Millions of Americans have put their lives back together and are living fulfilling lives in recovery.

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