Parental Alcohol Abuse or Divorce Has Negative Effects on Children

divorceChildren who have grown up in an environment where a parent has abused alcohol may be up to 85 percent more likely to attempt suicide compared with children who did not grow up in such an environment.[1] Also, the study found that the risk of suicide attempt increased by approximately 14 percent in individuals whose parents divorced.1 Oddly, putting those two factors together did not increase the risk of suicide attempts.1

“These findings underscore the need for comprehensive client and family assessments by clinicians to identify people in particular need of early interventions, ” said lead author Dana Alonzo, PhD, of Columbia University. “Individuals whose parents were divorced or abused alcohol might be more vulnerable for suicide than those from intact or nonalcoholic households. Prevention and treatment efforts need to target groups that are accurately identified as at risk.”1

For the study, researchers examined data from the Department of Health and Human Services’ survey of 43,093 people aged 18 years or older from 2001 to 2002.1 All participants were interviewed in person, and of the 13,753 participants who reported that they have suffered major depression at some time in their life, 1,073 said they had attempted suicide.1 Among those who have attempted suicide, 25 percent said their parents had divorced and 46 percent said one or both of their parents abused alcohol.1

As it was odd that a combination of divorce and drinking did not lead to more attempted suicides, while either alone did, researchers speculated that divorce may have actually decreased levels of hostility at home, which would not have contributed to a child growing into a maladjusted adult.1

“Or, it may be that children with an alcoholic parent are not as surprised when their parents split up because they have already witnessed so much conflict, so it may not lead to as much confusion and resentment as it might in a better-functioning family,” said Alonzo.1

To assess the participants’ history of depression, the researchers asked whether or not they have ever felt sad over a period of two weeks or more; if they have ever stopped caring about things that were important to them; or if they no longer enjoyed their favorite activities.1 All other questions were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for depression.1

Furthermore, to determine if a participant’s parent had abused alcohol, the researchers read the definitions from the DSM criteria for alcohol abuse, including readily observable behaviors, and asked participants if they have ever witnessed those behaviors by their parents.1

[1] Wood, J. (2014). Parents’ Alcohol Abuse or Divorce Hikes Risk of Suicide Tries in Offspring. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 7, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/07/parents-alcohol-abuse-or-divorce-hikes-risk-of-suicide-tries-in-offspring/69516.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are the only facility in Florida owned and operated by an addiction psychiatrist involved in all treatment decisions. Learn more
Hello. Add your message here.