Why Do So Many People Who Grow Up Around Alcoholics Become Alcoholics?

The mental health impact of children born to alcoholics is so significant that it is compared to the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by soldiers during a war. A study done that estimates over 26 million children are exposed to alcoholism via parents and close family members.

A specialist in the study of children born to alcoholics says that such individuals are raised not to question, not trust, not feel, and not talk. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when children raised by alcoholic parents grow up to become alcoholics themselves. So, why is it that people who grow up around alcoholics become alcoholics?

Early exposure to alcohol.

Children born of alcoholic parents start drinking at an early age than those born in a non-alcoholic homestead. This is because, in their homes, alcohol consumption is a normalized behavior.

From a very early age, such children are taught to integrate alcohol as a regular part of their daily lives. In fact, in some families, the parents and close family members drink with their children. Consequently, this will lead to alcoholism when they are older.

Lack of a better example to emulate.

When children grow, they tend to mimic the behaviors of the adults in their lives. Therefore, when a child born of alcoholic parents starts emulating their behavior, it comes as no surprise. The best example of morals and ethics that they can emulate is their alcoholic parents or family members.

As a result, children born to alcoholic parents will grow up to become alcoholics due to lack of a better example to emulate.

Violence, Abuse, and Sexual Harassment.

Due to the self-absorbing alcoholic behavior of alcoholic parents, children tend to feel neglected. They tend to be helpless, vulnerable, and scared of their drunkard parents. It is because of this reason they have been labeled as the silent victims of alcoholism. It may not be visible at first, but the psychological toll or damage that alcoholic parents impacts on the young developing minds of their children are detrimental.

Such children develop with trust issues and neural connectivity problems. Alcoholic homes are characterized by domestic violence. In some cases, daughters born in such homes experience sexual advances and assaults from adults who are supposed to protect them, especially when the adults are drunk. Such children struggle with self-blame, where they blame themselves for their parents’ behavior. Thus, they may turn to excessive alcohol consumption as a solution to their troubles.

Emotional burden.

A study revealed that children born of alcoholic parents are at a higher propensity to developmental disorders like anxiety, social dysfunction, panic disorder, dysthymia, and depression. This is because of frequent episodes of trauma, abuse, and neglect. Teenagers may engage in suicidal attempts as they feel that they are less worthy. The psychological and emotional damage may be so deep that it continues into adulthood. Since they saw their parents drown their sorrows in a bottle, many may opt to do the same, resulting in alcoholism.

Codependent relationships.

It is estimated that male children born of alcoholic parents are more likely to grow into alcoholism than the daughters. However, daughters born of alcoholic patients tend to get married into either an abusive homestead or a family of alcoholics. Due to the emotional negligence such individuals experienced in their early years, they spend most of their time trying to impress or seek acceptance to the people surrounding them.

Therefore, if they happen to have an environment that facilitates drinking, they will do it to avoid criticism. They will mirror their parents’ behaviors as they try to please people and little without them knowing they will develop alcoholism tendencies. Codependent relationships are unhealthy, and they tend to breed unhealthy dependency habits.


It is essential to state that not all children born of alcoholic parents become alcoholics. A good number of them grow up to responsible citizens. However, if you have a loved one or know someone going through this phase, they must know there is still hope.

They could seek help from a supportive relative or friend who will allow them to form healthy coping mechanisms and skills. Social services advocates for separation between the parent and the child if they see that it would yield more benefit than harm.

For adults who have emotional and psychological trauma should seek outpatient psychotherapy help. Talking to a psychiatrist about what they are feeling and their trauma will go a long way in their healing journey. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call us on 833-762-3739.