The Effects of Having an Alcoholic Parent
We know that parents have great influence over their teen when it comes to experimenting with drugs or alcohol. New research suggests that teenage brains can actually form differently, based on the drinking behavior of their parents. This helps to explain a little more about why some adolescents are at greater risk for alcohol abuse.
Parents today are learning how important it is for them to talk to their teen about substance abuse. Adolescents whose parents have ongoing conversations with them about not trying drugs or alcohol are up to 50% less likely to try these substances. Prevention definitely starts at home, and parents can make a conscious decision to be the first and most important step in prevention.
The example parents set also affects an adolescent. Kids who grow up watching their parents abuse alcohol are more likely to abuse alcohol themselves at a younger age. Adolescents learn behaviors from their parents and, good or bad, will start following the example set for them.
The latest study, which is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, looked at the brain chemistry of teens in order to further understand the impact of parental influence. The small study out of Oregon performed MRI scans on adolescents who had no previous experience with drinking, but who were children of alcoholics. They found differences in the areas of the brain that control decision-making compared to teens with no family history of alcoholism. These young people showed weaker development in the decision-making areas of the brain, possibly putting them at risk for making poor choices with regards to drinking in the future.
Bonnie J. Nagel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University concluded, “Therefore, differences in brain activity may impact the ability of individuals family history of alcoholism to make good decisions in many contexts, and in particular may facilitate poor decision-making in regards to alcohol use. Taken together with other studies on youth family history of alcoholism, these results suggest that atypical brain structure and function exist prior to any substance use, and may contribute to an increased vulnerability for alcoholism in these individuals.” (1)
This study only helps reiterate the important role parents play in keeping their children away from drugs and alcohol. Parents should first of all talk to their children regularly about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Secondly, parents need to set a good example for their teen by drinking responsibly. If a parent’s drinking is out of control, they should seek help right away in order to provide their child with the best chance at living a sober life.