Alcoholism and Family Relationships: Effects and Consequences

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

alcoholic man and his scared family

Alcoholism affects everyone including those around the problem drinker. Families of alcoholics suffer from alcohol psychological effects sometimes even more than the addict himself. Living with an alcoholic mother, father or spouse can be destructive in many ways. The burden and solution to this problem need to be a holistic strategy.

What is the Statistical Data on Alcoholism in Families?

According to the SAMHSA 2012 study, every tenth American lived with at least one alcoholic family member. More than 50% of adult Americans have at least one close relative with alcohol use disorder. Alcohol social effects also affect all the family members of the person with drinking problems leading to financial complications and domestic violence.

According to the 2015 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report, more than 55% of Americans reported consuming alcohol in the month preceding the survey, 27% involved in binge drinking in the same period. In the same year, 88,000 died of direct causes related to alcohol abuse.

Is Alcoholism a Genetic Problem?

A key question that people are looking into treatment options consistently ask: can alcoholism run in the family? Current science points to the relationship between genes and social environments as being important factors. Alcoholics have a genetic disposition for higher metabolism rates, and this has an impact on how they will process it but also be aware of its impact.
When it comes to the question of genetics and alcohol abuse, the current scientific paradigm is to look at alcoholism in family systems. The question asks: does alcoholism run in the family, can be answered by saying that there is not likely to be a single gene which will explain alcohol abuse. However, some people will experience higher amounts of stress worse, and because stress will lead to drinking, this is an example of how family members of alcoholics often have the same issues. Alcoholism has a social and genetic fact and one of the reasons that the primary treatment model with the best outcomes is holistic.

Negative Effects of Alcoholism on Family

The effects of alcoholism on the family are broad-ranging, and the challenges of this burden will impact people who do not even personally know the individual with the drinking issues, and alcoholism and relationships will also include the extended network of employers. There are many side effects of alcohol abuse that affect families. There are some ways how alcoholism affects the wider support network negatively.

Neglect of duties

One of the key components which impacts all areas of recovery is the basic practice of self-care. Self-care means the necessities and basic functions an individual needs to achieve to meet their minimal financial and health requirements. One of the most significant areas of alcohol abuse and over drinking concerns the basic negligence or lack of self-care that the individual demonstrates. Sometimes it is important to look at how excessive drinking is a  symptom of health concerns. An individual and their support network need the right therapy tools to successfully move forward.

Legal problems

Alcohol abuse has many legal dilemmas associated with it. In general, depleted inhibitions caused by drinking, lead to poor decision making and emotional regulation, and this will finally lead to risky behavior. Risky behavior might include driving while drinking, getting into a fight, or even just having an open rather than a concealed drink in public. Risk behavior is one of the indirect the over drinking of alcohol for everyone involved.

Financial problems

Financial problems are part of the wider range of consequences of poor self-care. With financial concerns, core issues are often compounded. Financial concerns might lead to greater stressors for everyone involved, and it is a serious consequence of the alcoholism.

Alcoholism and children:

Children of alcoholics have a greater probability of becoming alcoholics themselves. How excessive drinking affects everyone will have a lasting impact on children and will likely prove to impact their children. Children suffer from neglect and sometimes abuse in homes where alcohol abuse or drinking is a complication, and this can lead to further concerns like underage drinking. These are mental health maladies which children will often self-medicate to cope with.

sad girl with a bruise sitting near empty alcohol bottles

Possible Results of Alcoholism in Family

It is important to understand the impact of what impacts can alcoholism have on a family. There is a wide range of chronic and episodic problems which have been identified to be significant about alcohol abuse and domestic life. The consequences of alcohol abuse are significant and need to be understood.

Family Violence:

Under most circumstances, the problems caused by drinking will lead to further stressors, such as domestic violence and alcohol. Therefore, the consequences of alcohol have to sometimes take into consideration the very safety and even survival of everyone, and it is not just an issue for the alcoholic. Domestic violence is often a behavior which will likely repeat itself among subsequent or succeeding generations of an alcoholic.

Marriage Infidelity

The lack of executive function and cognitive control individuals have while intoxicated can lead them into situations that were unintended. Individuals who drink, lack inhibitions that would normally act as a buffer against poor and impulsive behaviors. Infidelity in a relationship can compound existing problems or bring about a whole new set of issues in a family of alcoholics.

Unplanned Pregnancies

Unexpected pregnancies are another notable result of alcohol abuse in the family. This issue will be further compounded by consuming alcohol during pregnancy. This can happen among the individuals who are abusing alcohol, but it can also be an unwanted outcome from the children in a challenged family. The offspring of alcoholics often repeat the cycles of impulsive and erratic judgment that they learned from their parents, and so unwanted pregnancy can result because of alcoholism within the wider family nexus.


Divorce rates are higher among individuals and families where alcohol is a problem. It cannot be overstated that alcoholism is a family disease. Sometimes the disease causes problems to the point where a relationship cannot be repaired or salvaged, and so separation and divorce become the results. The idea that it is a family disease means that the entire family must likewise recover and heal. The wounds left by alcoholism and the family can run deep and can remain open for a long time if they are not addressed in a therapeutic and clinically supportive setting.

Where to Get Help for an Alcoholic Relative

Your doctor is an important gateway toward receiving a proper assessment, diagnosis and then alcohol treatment programs. There are many community organizations and rehabs for alcohol addicts who also support individuals and families concerned about alcohol abuse, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also many alcohol support groups online. The view in current addiction science research shows a mixed model of support is needed. The greater the professional support and recovery/treatment planning, the greater the short-term and long-term outcomes.


Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma

Content Writer

Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma is a licensed Medical Technologist (Medical Laboratory Science) and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). She took her Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology at Angeles University Foundation and graduated with flying colors.

The combination of having a good medical background, being a mom, and wanting to help people, especially the elderly has cultivated her passion for working in remote areas with love and compassion.
Marixie likes to travel, read, and watch movies.

Medical review by Brian Obodeze

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