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Living with a non-recovering alcoholic in the family can contribute to stress for all members of the family. Each member may be affected differently and react to this stress in the same or different way. The level of dysfunction or resiliency of the non-alcoholic spouse is usually a key factor in the effects of problems and levels of stress impacting the children. Children raised in alcoholic families have different life experiences than children raised in non-alcoholic families.
Children in alcoholic families are at a higher risk of abuse, and having some type of cognitive, emotional, and / or behavior problems. While some of these problems stem from the chronic stress children undergo in an alcoholic home environment, others are in actuality the source of stress. Chronic Stress caused by alcoholism is ongoing and tends to deplete coping skills. It is normally stimulus oriented, when the parent (s) drink stress occurs for the other family members.
In the event that the alcoholic becomes violent and abusive the stress becomes qualitative, in which each family member experiences stress uniquely. For example, if one child was being abused while another child watched, each childs stress experience would be different. An estimated 11. 2 million children under the age of 18 years live in households with at least one alcoholic parent (Wilson). Shockingly, the number continues to rise as do the number of children suffering from chronic stress due to living in an alcoholic environment.
This paper will focuses on journal reviews concerned with the effects of stress on children of alcoholics (COAs). The topics being explored include depression, drug / alcohol abuse, aggression, physical & mental heath problems, and lack of scholastic achievement. Most of these effects are in direct correlation to the development of unhealthy coping skills. According to Bennet, Wolin, et.
el, children from alcoholic families report higher levels of depression and anxiety and exhibit more symptoms of generalized stress than do children from nonalcoholic families. In general, COAs appear to have lower self-esteem than non-COAs in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. In addition, COAs often express a feeling of lack of control over their environment. Nixon & Tivis further explain that young COAs often show symptoms of stress and depression such as crying, bed wetting, not having friends, being afraid to go to school, having nightmares, or fatigue from not getting sleep due to turmoil. Older youth may stay in their rooms for long periods of time and not relate to other children claiming they "have no one to talk to. " Teens may show depressive symptoms by being perfectionistic in their endeavors, hoarding, staying by themselves, and being excessively self-conscious. Children with increased anxiety and depression are more susceptible to falling under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Children use drugs and alcohol as a form of coping by avoiding the issues and curbing the chronic stress. In an article by Jacob & Johnson, COAs were found to be more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than children of non-alcoholics. Parental alcoholism seems to influence adolescent substance use through several different pathways including stress, negative affect and decreased parental monitoring. Negative affect and impaired parental monitoring are associated with adolescent's joining in a peer network that supports drug use behavior. In another article, The Role of Family Influences in Development and Risk, children's perceptions of parental drinking quantity and circumstances had a direct correlation in influencing their own drinking frequency. Parental alcoholism has an impact on children's early learning about alcohol and other drugs.
In one final study, Miller & Jang discussed that family interaction patterns also may influence the COA's risk for alcohol abuse. Filstead, Mcelfresh, and Anderson, found that compared with non-alcoholic families, alcoholic families demonstrate poorer problem-solving abilities, both among the parents and within the family as a whole. These poor communication and problem-solving skills may be mechanisms through which lack of cohesion and increased conflict develop and escalate in alcoholic families. In a similar article, Michael Windle found that COAs are more likely to be the targets of physical abuse and to witness family violence. This presence of violent behavior causes increased emotional stress.
Comparing the two articles it is likely that children under emotional stress, with the behavior pattern of violence shown to them, and without proper coping skills and problem-solving abilities will themselves be led to aggressive tendencies. As mentioned in Filstead et el. COAs are more at risk for disruptive behavioral problems and are more likely than non-COAs to be sensation seeking, aggressive, and impulsive. Study findings also suggest that these children exhibit such problems as lying, stealing, fighting, truancy, and school behavior problems, and they often are diagnosed as having conduct disorders. Along with the added injuries of fighting and aggressive behavior, COAs also experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health care costs than children from non-alcoholic families. According to Miller & Jang, inpatient admission rates for substance abuse are triple that of other children and inpatient admission rates for mental disorders are almost double that of other children.
Injuries are more than one and one-half times greater than those of other children (the study did not give what part of the ratio was due to child abuse). Stress linked health problems such as ulcers and mental disorders were also higher among COAs. Overall, the rate of total health care costs for children of alcoholics is 32 % greater than children from non-alcoholic families. In contrast to this article, Moos & Billings found that the emotional stress of parental drinking on children lessens when parents stop drinking. These investigators assessed emotional problems in children from families of relapsed alcoholics, children from families with a recovering parent, and children from families with no alcohol problem.
The children of relapsed alcoholics reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than children from the homes with no alcohol problem, however emotional functioning was similar among the children of recovering and normal parents. The last articles deal with the difficulties COAs often have in school. A study using school records indicate that COAs experience such academic difficulties as repeating grades, failing to graduate from high school, and requiring referrals to school psychologists (Knop, Teasdale, Schulsinger, & Goodwin). A similar study reports that the stress of the home environment often leads to COAs believing that they will be failures even if they do well academically and they often do not view themselves as successful (Sher). In a study done by Johnson & Rolf, pre-school aged COAs exhibited poorer language and reasoning skills than did non-COAs, and poorer performance among the COAs was predicted by the lower quality of stimulation present in the home. The article also explained that COAs may have difficulty bonding with teachers, other students and school; they may experience anxiety related to performance; or they may be afraid of failure.
In conclusion, the various articles reviewed and researched provide a direct link between the stresses associated with being a child of an alcoholic. The chronic stresses COAs are exposed to and live through have different effects on their development and coping skills. Many children as discussed in the articles are subject to health related problems due to the ongoing effects of stress. Children suffer from depression, physical ailments and other emotional problems. At the same time other coping techniques that children use are simply to withdrawal or act out aggressively. As shown by the articles, many children are not receiving the necessary social development skills, such as problem solving and communication skills from their families.
Thus, this in turn leads to the increase use of drug and alcohol use among children and the inability to function well in the school environment. Stress can produce both positive and negative outcomes. This paper dealt with most of the negative ways stress from having an alcoholic family member can have on a childs life. Overall, the childs constant use of coping skills wears out and in some cases the child has to replace the coping with a negative form of behavior, or in other cases ends up becoming ill due to the associated stress. This stress can be reduced by a supportive family or friend network.
Some studies have also shown that the stress will decrease if the parent (s) stop drinking. Overall the only way to end the stress associated with alcoholism in a family is for the alcoholic party to detox and move ahead on the path to sobriety. Bibliography: Bennet, L. A. ; Wolin, S. J. ; and Reiss, D.
Cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems among school-age children of alcoholic parents. American Journal of Psychiatry 145 (2): 185 - 190, 1988. Ellis, Deborah, A. ; Zucker, Robert, A. ; Fitzgerald, Hiram, E. The Role of Family Influences in Development and Risk. Alcohol Health and Research World.
Vol. 21, No. 3: 218 - 225. 1997. Filstead, W. ; Mcelfresh, O. ; Anderson, C. Comparing the family environment of alcoholic and normal families. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. 26: 24 - 31, 1981. Jacob, Theodore; Johnson, Sheri. Parenting Influences on the Development of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.
Alcohol Health and Research World. Vol. 21, No. 3: 204 - 209. 1997. Johnson, J. ; Rolf, J. E. Cognitive functioning in children from alcoholic and non- alcoholic families.
Journal of Addictions. Vol 18, No. 83: 849 - 857. 1988. Knop, J. ; Teasdale, T. W. ; Schulsinger, F. ; and Goodwin D. W. A prospective study of young men at high risk for alcoholism: School behavior and achievement.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol Vol. 19, No. 46: 273 - 278, 1985. Miller, D. , & Jang, M. Children of alcoholics: A 20 -year longitudinal study. Social Work Research & Abstracts 13: 23 - 29, 1977.
Moos, R. H. , & Billings, A. G. Children of alcoholics during the recovery process: Alcoholic and matched control families. Addictive Behaviors Vol. 20, No. 7: 155 - 163, 1982. Nixon, Sara Jo; Tivis, Laura J.
Neuropsychological Responses in COAs. Alcohol Health and Research World. Vol. 21, No. 3: 232 - 235. 1997. Sher, Kenneth, J.
Psychological Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics. Alcohol Health and Research World. Vol. 21, No. 3: 247 - 253. 1997. Wilson, C. ; Orford, J.
Children of Alcoholics: Report of a preliminary study and comments on the literature. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. Vol 20, No. 39: 121 - 142, 1978. Windle, Michael.
Concepts and Issues in COA Research. Alcohol Health and Research World. Vol. 21, No. 3: 185 - 191. 1997.
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