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David Baxter

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Children of alcoholics 'damaged'
Sunday, 3 September 2006
BBC News

Children who grow up with alcoholic parents bear emotional, behavioural and mental scars, experts say.

The Priory study said children of alcoholics were four times more likely to be addicted to drink and there was a risk of drug and gambling problems.

The private health provider said a child's early life was characterised by chaos, trauma, confusion and shame and, quite often, sexual and physical abuse.

The report found 55% of domestic violence occurs in alcoholic homes.

The Priory reviewed existing data on crime, abuse and alcoholism as well as consulting its own doctors and therapists to compile the report.

It said the problems children of alcoholics experience in early life had a profound impact later in life.

The report said growing up in an alcoholic household was inextricably linked to abuse.

Some 55% of family violence occurs in alcoholic homes with alcohol a factor in 90% of child abuse cases.

Studies have also showed a third of daughters of alcoholics experienced physical abuse and a fifth sexual abuse - up to four times higher than in non-alcoholic homes, the Priory said.

The report said children reacted in one of three ways - either they became withdrawn, went into denial or used the experience to benefit themselves by becoming stronger.

Many of the children of alcoholics, even those who would perhaps have been withdrawn, could grow up to be likeable, kind and intuitive.

Difficulties

But the problems surfaced when they had to confront difficulties.

The report said: "Their feelings about themselves are the opposite of the serene image they present - they generally feel insecure, inadequate, dull, unsuccessful, vulnerable and anxious".

They also struggled to develop strong personal relationships.

Researchers said previous studies had revealed that 70% of children of alcoholics develop compulsive behaviour around either alcohol, drugs, food, sex, work or gambling, while a half ended up marrying alcoholics.

And they said children of alcoholics were four times more likely to become alcoholics - partly because of genetics - than the one in 20 of the general population that have the condition currently.

Priory addictions expert Dr Michael Bristow said: "There is a widespread misconception that addiction is all about the addict, that it is solely the addict who suffer from his illness.

"The reality? Alcoholism affects the adult alcoholic's entire family, particularly the children."

Professor Martin Plant, an addiction expert at the University of the West of England, said: "These findings are not altogether surprising. But what I would like to stress, is that it is not inevitable.

"The children of alcoholics can break the cycle, many end up loathing alcohol and refusing to let it destroy their lives like it may have done to their parents."
 
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i'd like to find out more about the specific impact of alcoholism on children in those homes where there is no abuse (the other 45%) - has that ever been researched?
 

David Baxter

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Even where there is no physical abuse, my clinical experience would suggest that there is still a great deal of tension, uncertainty, and unpredictability which has a strong negative impact on younge children that last well into their adult years - the characteristic people-pleasing, excessive worrying, trying to make everything nice and keep everyone happy, trying to avoid surprises is a direct outcome of that early experience.
 
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the characteristic people-pleasing, excessive worrying, trying to make everything nice and keep everyone happy, trying to avoid surprises is a direct outcome of that early experience.

I think I do these things. My grandfather was an alcoholic and I think this may be a reason for how my father treated us.

As an adult, when I think I've done something horrible I get a sick feeling in my stomach and my throat feels all closed up and I want to burst into tears. Then I then how can I make things ok? How can I fix things? And I guess I worry a lot too. My father was just so angry so often. You could never know what might cause him to be angry. And so many other things too. What's sad is I still allow this to rule me in many ways.

I think it does cause damage, but I also think/hope the damage can be healed.
 
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i am sure it can be healed janet. it all has to do with changing our thinking patterns. i know it can be done, i've already proven that to myself on a few occasions. :)
 
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I hope so. Sometimes it seems like my life is two extremes, one is that I could have a really good life and the other is that there is no hope and only despair. I want to find the balance between the two. That life is just life and there are good days and bad days and good moments and bad moments. I would be allowed to make mistakes and I could deal with my emotions in a healthy way and I could deal with other people's emotions without being so scared.
 

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