Family History May Indicate Higher Risk for Alcohol Abuse

If you are one of the millions of people in this country who are going through alcoholism or have a parent, grandparent, or close relative that is experiencing it, you may wonder what is alcoholism in your family history means for you. Is alcohol abuse a part of your future? Is the risk of you becoming an alcoholic greater than for people who do not have a family history of alcoholism? If so, how can you lower this risk?


Many scientific studies have shown that genetic factors have an influence on alcoholism. These studies included research conducted among twins and the children of alcoholic parents. The findings of the studies have shown that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely to develop alcohol problems than the general population. Said children are also at higher risk for other emotional and behavioral problems. However, alcoholism is not determined only by the genes inherited from parents. In fact, more than half of all children of alcoholics do not end up becoming alcoholics. Research shows that many other factors contribute to the risk of developing alcoholism. Some factors increase the risk while others lower it.

Family History

Genes are not the only thing children inherit from parents. How a person’s parents act and how they treat each other and their children has an influence on the children growing up within the family. These aspects of family life also have an effect on the risk of alcoholism. Researchers have the belief that a person’s risk of alcohol abuse increases if they’re a part of a family with the following dysfunctions and difficulties:

  • Conflict leading to aggression and violence in the family
  • Both parents abuse alcohol and/or other drugs
  • The parents’ alcohol abuse is severe
  • A parent suffering alcoholism is depressed or going through other psychological problems

The good news, however, is that many children of an alcoholic, even from the most troubled families do not develop alcoholism. Just as a family history of alcohol abuse does not guarantee that you too will become an alcoholic, neither does growing up in a troubled home with alcoholic parents. The risk may be higher due to certain factors, but the alcoholism is not an automatic issue. If you have worries that your troubled family life or your family history of alcoholism puts you at risk of following the same path, there are some common sense tips to help you avoid falling into alcohol abuse:

  • Avoid underage drinking
  • Drink only in moderation as an adult

People with a family history of alcohol abuse should approach moderate drinking carefully. It may be harder for them to maintain moderate habits when it comes to drinking than for people who don’t have a family history of drinking problems. If you or someone in your family has a drinking problem, get help as soon as possible. Talk with a healthcare professional about problems or concerns about risk. They can recommend organizations or groups that can help you avoid or address alcohol problems.

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