Risk factors in the transmission of alcoholism from parent to child

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Alcoholism is a major contributor to dysfunction in families today. Research has shown that children who are born to an alcoholic family are adversely affected by alcoholism in their development (Baker and Stephenson, 1995). Children of alcoholics possess a greater risk of acquiring alcoholism as a result of their parent¡¦s alcoholism (Reich, 1997). Within the body of this paper, this thesis will be supported. The text of this paper will list and describe risk factors in the transmission of alcoholism from parent to child, both specifically related to alcohol use and influences of a psychosocial nature.

It has been speculated for some time that alcoholism has biological roots, being passed down to children from generation to generation. Whether the influence is hereditary, environmental, or a combination of both factors has not yet been definitively proven. Studies conducted in the 1950's and 1960's on the continuance of alcoholism in families pointed to environmental causes, such as deficient parenting, lack of positive role models, and poor home lives. Since the 1970¡¦s however, researchers studied the possible genetic components of inheriting alcoholism. Studies were conducted using identical and fraternal twins, half-siblings, and children of adoption and focused on the development of alcoholism in these children. Reich states that these studies have provided proof that genetic factors do play an important part in the acquisition of alcoholism and that alcoholism can be transmitted familially (Reich, 1997).

More research has been conducted that clearly shows the vulnerability of children born into alcoholic families in becoming alcoholic. According to Reich, when comparing children from alcoholic families to children ...

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...s that suffered from alcoholism and to possess a greater genetic risk for alcoholism (Ellis and Zucker, 1997).


Baker, D.E., & Stephenson, L.A. (1995). Personality Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 51, 694-702.

Ellis, D.A., & Zucker, R.A. (1997). The Role of Family Influences in Development and Risk. Alcohol Health and Research World. 21, 218-227.

Fischer, K.E., & Kittleson, M. (2000). The Relationship of Parental Alcoholism and Family Dysfunction to Stress Among College Students. Journal of American College Health. 48, 151-157.

Jacob, T., & Johnson, S. (1997). Parenting Influences on the Development of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence. Alcohol Health & Research World. 21, 204-210.

Reich, W. (1997).Prospective Studies of Children of Alcoholic Parents. Alcohol Health & Research World. 21, 255-257.
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