The Gender of the Alcoholic Parent

gender-of-alcoholic-parentI think we can all agree that alcoholism affects families in many different ways, but a study done explains that how exactly it impacts the children of such families might depend not only on the gender of the children but also upon the gender of the alcoholic parent. There are four types of these relationships, including

  • male alcoholic parent, male child
  • male alcoholic parent, female child
  • female alcoholic parent, male child
  • female alcoholic parent, female child

As it turns out, not all of these relationships are equal in terms of the long-lasting effects on children who grew up in alcoholic homes. Morgan et al.  published a study in Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research titled “Gender-Related Influences of Parental Alcoholism on the Prevalence of Psychiatric Illnesses: Analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.”

“The key new finding of this work is that the effect parental alcoholism has on children is different depending on the gender of the alcoholic parent and the gender of the child” (1).

It is well-known and proven that adult children of alcoholics are much more likely to develop mental illnesses than those who grew up in a non-addicted family.

“Children are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of alcoholism in a parent, and adult children of alcoholics are in general at much greater risk for developing every type of psychiatric illness” (1).

The influence of the alcoholic parent on a child regardless of gender is undeniable. However, the parent-child negative influence tends to be strongest when the pairing is female parent and a female child. This toxic relationship yielded the largest increase in risk for developing addictive behaviors (namely alcohol or drugs) or serious mental illness (1).

“…These findings indicate that in a family with an alcoholic mother, daughters may be at greater relative risk for developing psychiatric problems” (1).

These findings do not at all discount the severity of potential mental problems in other addicted parent-child relationships. Rather, it proves that female children with alcoholic mothers or caretakers tend to have the highest probability of developing a future mental disorder or disorders.

This particular relationship (female alcoholic parent-female child) happens to be the situation that I (and so many of us) grew up in. It was hard and I do suffer from a variety of mental illnesses even to this day, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. By taking life one day at a time, I am slowly learning how to cope with my illnesses and I strive to improve a little bit each day.


(1) Morgan et al. Gender-Related Influences of Parental Alcoholism on the Prevalence of Psychiatric Illnesses: Analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions GENDER-RELATED INFLUENCES OF PARENTAL ALCOHOLISM. Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01263.x

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2 thoughts on “The Gender of the Alcoholic Parent

    • Great question! I’m not entirely sure, but I would think that there would be. I know there is a decent amount of research regarding birth order (ie. youngest vs. oldest child) so I imagine there should be some on the topic of both parents being alcoholics. I will look into it and hopefully make a post about it!

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