Will My Child Become an Alcoholic? Ways to Reduce the Risk

You might might be concerned about an important question: “Will my child become an alcoholic?” Parents can never know for certain, but there are ways to reduce the risk. There are clearly things to do and things not to do.

I. Things to Do

A. Be a good role model.

  • Never abuse alcohol.
  • Use teachable moments to discuss the harms of alcohol abuse.
  • Never make light of alcohol abuse, joke about it, or show amusement about it.

B. Explain that alcohol itself is neither good nor bad. It’s how people use it that’s important. Drinking alcohol in moderation is good if it

  • Promotes friendship and good relationships.
  • Contributes to good health.
  • Promotes longer life.
  • Enhances the enjoyment of life.
  • Is a part of religious ceremonies.

On the other hand, the abuse of alcohol is bad. It can

  • Negatively impact friendships and good relationships.
  • Harm health.
  • Reduce the length of life.
  • Cause accidents and other harms.

C. Teach by word and deed that the abuse of alcohol is never acceptable under any circumstances. That includes by anyone of any age.

become an alcoholicD. If legal where you life, and most states permit it, serve alcohol to your children if they express the desire. Teach them to appreciate the subtleties of different beverages. This promotes savoring and drinking slowly.

Possible Objections

“Drinking at an early age damages young brains.”

The research suggesting this is based on two sources. One is young rats and other animals that are fed large amounts of alcohol for a long period of time. Not surprisingly, such massive dosing is harmful to brain development.

The second source is young people in treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse. Again, such abusers often suffer poor brain development.

But moderate drinking appears not to be harmful. Jews, Italians, French, Greeks, Portuguese, Spaniards, and many others generally begin drinking at an early age and do so regularly. There is no reason to suspect that these groups are intellectually inferior?

“Drinking at an early age leads to later alcohol abuse.”

Both drinking at early age and later alcohol abuse appear to be caused by underlying personality characteristics. They include impulsivity, sensation seeking, and other factors that precede drinking alcohol.

Thus, in an important study, observers rated children’s ability to control their impulses and behavior (behavioral control). They also rated rated their flexibly to adapt their self-control to environmental demands (resiliency). The researchers did this from the time children were between three and five years old. They repeated this every three years after that until children  reached the age of 12 to 14.

The researchers found that low behavioral control and low resiliency predicted the onset of alcohol drinking.

So simply preventing people from drinking at an early age would have no effect on later alcohol abuse.

II. Things to Avoid.

There are clearly things to avoid. To help your child to avoid becoming an alcoholic, don’t

  • Be a bad role model by abusing alcohol, making light of it, or seeing it as humorous.
  • Warn that alcohol is a dangerous poison that seduces victims.
  • Show that abusing alcohol is acceptable. At least by adults, men, alcoholics, or others.
  • Teach that having a little alcohol before age 21 causes brain damage or later alcohol abuse.

Nothing can insure that your child won’t become an alcoholic. For example, some religious groups prohibit drinking alcohol. For those members who completely abstain, there is no risk.

However, among those members who do drink, the rate of alcoholism is much higher. That’s in comparison to members of other religious groups. So teaching abstention can actually backfire for many people.

Resources for “Will My Child Become an Alcoholic?”

Chafitz, M. Liquor: The Servant of Man. London: Phoenix.

Engs, R. Alcohol and other Drugs: Self-responsibility. Bloomington: Tichenor.

______. Responsible Drug and Alcohol Use.
NY: Macmillan.

Hanson, D. Preventing Alcohol Abuse. London: Praeger.

______. Alcohol Education. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Torr, J. Teens and Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven.

U.S. Office for Substance Abuse. Parent Training is Prevention. Preventing Alcohol and other Drug Problems among Youth in the Family. Rockville, MD: U.S. G.P.O.

 

Note. These are ideas are for consideration only. They are not recommendations. Carefully consider all ideas for reducing the risk that your child will become an alcoholic.