Young Children as Alcoholics
New statistics coming out of Scotland this week are shocking people around the world with the severity of alcohol abuse among young people. The numbers are disturbing, with many young teenagers being hospitalized for alcohol-related emergencies, and children as young as 8 being treated for alcoholism.
Looking at the history of these children, it’s easy to look to the parents for their child’s alcohol problem. In many cases, the kids come from households where parents binge drink or are alcoholics. Kids raised in an environment full of alcohol abuse will learn at a young age how to abuse alcohol, and are more likely to do so themselves someday. Many kids don’t actually start with alcohol themselves until late teenage or early adult years, but the trend we are seeing is for younger and younger kids to abuse alcohol.
Other Causes of Alcohol Abuse
Other people are more focused on showing the genetic link to alcoholism and binge drinking. Professor Harry June of Maryland University has concluded through his studies that a certain gene can be blamed for a large percentage of alcohol dependence. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that instead of blaming a person’s environment for their alcoholism, we should be looking into how they genetically are prone to it. Gene therapy is something these scientists would advise researching, to prevent and treat alcoholism.
Still others believe the focus of prevention should be the peer groups among young people. Studies show that teens that get involved with friends who drink are more likely to join in and drink themselves.
We have to be careful to not place too much emphasis on a certain cause of alcohol abuse, while ignoring the main issues. It may be true that a certain gene can make a person more likely to become dependent on alcohol. It is also true that peer groups influence each other to some extent to abuse alcohol. But over time, the most influential factors in helping a child abstain from underage drinking are their parents. There is no substitute for giving a child a good upbringing. Parents who model good behavior, good stress relieving techniques, and the proper use of alcohol will show their children, even at a young age, how to behave with alcohol. Children learn a great deal from their parents; that’s what parenting is designed for. Parents who have lost control and binge drink or are alcohol dependent will teach their children that the way to deal with problems or stress is to drink. Parents who are more interested in drinking or partying will teach their kids that you have to be drunk to have a good time.
We need to be careful to not play the blame game for a child’s alcohol abuse. Genes and school influences may play a role, but a child who is an alcoholic almost certainly missed some important lessons that should have been taught them by their parents.