Will My Child Become Alcoholic? Ways to Reduce the Risk

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

        Overview

I.   Things to Do

II.  Things to Avoid

III. Resources

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 or joke about it.
B. Explain that alcohol itself is neither good nor bad. It’s how people use it that’s important.

Moderate drinking can do all this.

    • Promotes friendship.
    • 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 do these things.

    • Harms friendships and relationships.
    • Reduce the length of life.
    • Harm health.
    • Cause crashes and other harms.
    • Leads to job loss.
C. Teach by word and deed that the abuse of alcohol is never good. That includes by anyone of any age.
child become alcoholic
Standard Drinks

They need to know that standard drinks of beer, wine, and spirits (liquor) have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 6/10th of an ounce.

So a drink is a drink. Having two shots of whiskey? It’s the same as having two beers.

D. 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. And for a long period of time. Not surprisingly, such massive dosing is harmful to brains.

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, Spaniards, and many others generally begin drinking at an early age. And do so regularly their entire lives.. 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 traits. They include impulsivity, sensation seeking, and other factors that precede drinking.

Thus, in an important study, observers rated children’s ability to control their impulses and behavior. This is behavioral control. They also rated their flexibly to adapt their self-control to environmental demands. This is 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.

    • Be a bad role model by abusing alcohol. By making light of abuse. Or by seeing it as humorous.
    • Warn that alcohol is a dangerous poison that seduces victims.
    • Show that abusing alcohol is good.
    • 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 instance, some religious groups prohibit drinking alcohol. Of course, for those members who completely abstain, there is no risk.

But among those members who do drink, the rate of alcoholism is much higher. That’s compared to members of other religious groups. So teaching abstention can actually backfire.

III. Resources: Will My Child Become Alcoholic?

Readings
Notes
    • “Will my child become alcoholic?” Please carefully consider all ideas for reducing that risk.
    • This site gives no advice.