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Alcoholism as a Social Issue and Its Effect on Families Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 27th, 2020

Brief History

Alcoholism is considered a diseased condition mainly because of excessive consumption of intoxicating beverages. Psychiatrists utilize at least three criteria in diagnosing alcoholism in individuals. American Psychological Association suggests that identification of physiological problems, including hand tremors and the experiencing of blackouts among individuals, is one of the ways of diagnosing alcoholism. Another way of establishing whether an individual is an alcoholic is to find out whether he or she has psychological problems, such as an obsession with intoxicating beverages. This is considered a serious condition, which proves that an individual is addicted to alcohol.

Finally, an alcoholic individual has some behavioral problems, which tend to interfere with his or her normal functioning in society. Such an individual would always have conflicts with other family members, as well as colleagues in the place of work. History shows that alcoholism is not associated with a specific age, but, instead, all ages are represented. This is a challenge to many families since some of them fail to control their members against acting in a manner that would be dangerous to others. In the United States, history shows that alcoholism is rampant in all ethnic groups (Richter & Richter, 2001). Additionally, it does not discriminate against people based on income, meaning that it is a problem for both the poor and the rich. In this case, poor and rich families indeed face this issue.

Recent studies suggest that extremely learned individuals are affected more by alcoholism as opposed to unskilled individuals. Individuals with no inspiration would not engage in alcoholism as compared to extremely encouraged persons. Some studies term alcoholism as a family disease. In this regard, alcoholics could be adults, teenagers, youth, husbands, or even wives. In extreme cases, an alcoholic member of the family may disrupt life and make it unbearable for other family members. Many problems facing individuals and their families are attributed to alcoholism since it affects members in different ways. For instance, the drinking behavior of the mother could harm even the unborn child since alcohol affects the fetus.

Studies show that the mother’s organs and tissues would contain alcoholic materials given the fact that they are transported through the blood. This implies that even the placenta would contain alcoholic materials (Rogers, McGee, Vann, Thompson, & Williams, 2003). The fetus obtains its food through the membrane that separates the maternal and fetal blood systems, which means that the child would be affected. A drinking mother may give birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is one of the birth defects. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome affects the weight and height of the child. Moreover, children might be born with mental problems and other defects on various body parts, such as the face and the lips. These defects affect the reasoning of the child, the learning ability, problem-solving ability, judgment ability, and the ability to memorize.

Several children brought up in alcoholic families have poor problem-solving skills, and they tend to lack social skills that are critical as far as coping with new environments in society is concerned. A critical review of the literature shows that such as children would grow-up with frustrations meaning that they become angry easily. Alcoholism affects the normal growth of children since most of them grow up with hyperactive conditions meaning that they are unable to stand still for a long period. As children grow up in alcoholic families, they become impulsive, implying that they are unable to coordinate their activities. Some might even develop complications that impede their speech and the ability to hear clearly. Studies prove that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other alcohol-related issues are often undeviating, which means that they cause enduring tribulations that tend to lead to psychosomatic retardation.

The national survey conducted in the United States to establish the drinking trend is astonishing since it shows that heavy drinking is reducing among individuals. Still, issues related to drinking are on the increase. This shows that dependence on alcohol is on the increase while heavy drinking is reducing. The governmental agency, referred to as Alcohol Research Group carries out studies every five years, and the trend is the same. The first study conducted between 1967 and 1984 revealed that heavy drinking had dropped significantly, but dependence had gone up. It was noted that people consumed less than five bottles of alcohol per week, but the rate at which alcohol was taken was in the increase. The scenario was the same in a study conducted between 1984 and 1990 since heavy drinking was on the decrease, but dependence on alcohol was on the increase. Between 1995 and 2000, the state agency found out that the effects of alcoholism on family units and the intake were almost the same. Subsequent studies confirm that drinking is the major issue, irrespective of the intake rate. This means that alcohol consumption results in serious problems in families, irrespective of addiction.

A study that has been conducted by Gallup for several years incurs with the findings of the governmental agency on alcohol research since heavy drinking is reducing, but dependence is on the increase. Due to this, individuals claim that drinking is an issue in their families since it affects tranquility and prosperity. Gallup suggested that the reduction in drinking habits could be a result of public awareness campaigns, which sensitize people on the dangers of alcohol on their health. Since individuals are concerned with their health, they simply reduce consumption to the levels that their bodies can handle, but they do not quit drinking. Culture plays a critical role in interpreting the effects of alcoholism on families since some cultures are affected more. People are often reluctant to quit drinking while preferring to reduce their drinking habits to manageable levels. Current campaigns on alcoholism are aimed at reducing intake rather than encouraging individuals to abstain. This reduces intake but increases dependence on alcoholism, which brings about several problems that have affected families in almost all cultures.

Societal Concerns

Societal members are often concerned with the issue of alcoholism since it affects the social institution of the family. In many societies within the United States, breakups and frequent disagreements are caused by alcohol intake. An individual under the influence of an illicit drug behaves unpleasantly, which would result in quarrels and even violence. Studies on the effects of alcoholism on families suggest that parental intake of alcoholic beverages tend to influence the lives of their children negatively. For instance, a child develops some symptoms that affect his or her socialization among peers, such as a low sense of worth, solitude, culpability, defenselessness, fear of rejection, chronic despair, and posttraumatic stress disorders. Such children tend to think that they are the causes of the problem, which would end up affecting them psychologically. In this regard, tension will always be high among these children, leading to stress. In some rare scenarios, children might end up experiencing nightmares, bed-wetting, and expressing grief throughout. Since their socialization is weak, they might not have enough friends owing to fear of retribution. Some children might fear to go to school since their peers may laugh at them. For mature members of the family, alcoholism may lead to obsessive perfectionism, hoarding, and excessive reservation (Velleman, & Templeton, 2003).

Apart from affecting children, alcoholism among family members destabilizes peace and normalcy since it breeds violence against women and minors. For instance, alcoholism is the main cause of incest and wife battering in many families. In one of the studies conducted by Testa (2004), it was established that over thirty percent of all father-daughter incest cases are attributed to alcoholism, while over seventy-five percent of all domestic violence cases witnessed in the United States are accredited to alcoholism. Victims of alcoholism are often traumatized and tend to blame themselves for what happened, yet they are always innocent. Since they might end up being hopeless, guilty band ashamed, they could easily start drinking to run away from the hurting incidents. Walsh, MacMillan, and Jamieson (2003) were of the view that children are individuals who are often robbed of their childhood through the brutal acts of alcoholic members of the family. Since children are not helped to get out of the horrifying scenarios, they end up having complications in life that might even affect them in the entire life. Individuals growing up in alcoholic families do not like relating their problems to their past, but they aspire to justify their actions. Due to this, they would easily turn out to be depressed, aggressive, and would develop impulsive behaviors that affect their normal decision-making processes.

A study conducted by Woodcock and Sheppard (2002) revealed that many children from alcoholic families abuse psychoactive drugs, and they would find it difficult to coexist with other societal members. This suggests that such individuals end up being failures in life, just as their parents. Regarding professional life, such children tend to make wrong choices as far as career selection is concerned. Some scholars, such as Loukas, Zucker, Fitzgerald, and Krull (2003), proved through research that such children have negative self-image meaning that they hate themselves to the extent of allowing other people to make decisions for them. They allow other people to make decisions for them since they have a feeling of irrelevance and disappointment.

Relevance or Significance of the Topic

Alcoholism is the major cause of marital problems and instabilities in families around the world. Through the study of the effects of alcoholism on family units, it is established that close friends and family members can change the behavior of a drinker. A study conducted by Thomas and Corcoran (2001) suggested that family members can either worsen the situation or help the drinker adjust his or her drinking habit. Some members of the family would rather allow an individual to continue drinking to maintain peace. Through the topic, psychologists learn that denial is the major problem when attempting to resolve alcoholism in families. Since each family is interested in protecting the member, denial would be employed as an effective tool to defend an individual, but it might end up affecting the family negatively. Denial might perhaps trigger emotional issues among family members, leading to serious marital problems. Divorce the major social issue that is threatening the existence of families in modern society. Alcoholism is one of the major causes of separation; hence appreciating its effects would help in extenuating the predicament. In counseling, many practitioners tend to neglect the role of family members diagnosing the problem, which leads to ineffectiveness in terms of offering professional help to addicts. The study of alcoholism reveals that family members must always be involved in treatment plans in case the issue is to be resolved effectively.


With the understanding of the effects of alcoholism on families, counselors would be in a position to resolve family problems easily. For instance, the topic helps psychologists in comprehending the idea of codependence. Codependence means that family members become addicted to the behavior of the alcoholic member, which is very dangerous to the survival of family members. This is a big challenge to psychologists specializing in offering help to the affected individuals since they would not extract enough information from family members.

In many cases, alcoholics would stop drinking for some time. When this happens, they will tend to take up their family roles and play them responsible. Family members would attempt to conceal the actions of the alcoholic member to safeguard the reputation of the seemingly faultless family. The whole family is affected since members would be reluctant to take their friends to where they live since the behavior of their alcoholic members would be noticed. For psychologists, this is a great challenge. Therefore, the understanding of the relationship between alcoholism and the family is critical.


Loukas, A., Zucker, R.A., Fitzgerald, H.E., & Krull, J.L. (2003). Developmental trajectories of disruptive behavior problems among sons of alcoholics: Effects of parent psychopathology, family conflict, and child under control. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 112(1), 119-131

Richter, L., & Richter, D.M. (2001). Exposure to parental tobacco and alcohol use: Effects on children’s health and development. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(2), 182-203.

Rogers, B., McGee, G., Vann, A., Thompson, N., & Williams, O.J. (2003). Substance abuse and domestic violence: Stories of practitioners that address the co-occurrence among battered women. Violence against Women, 9(5), 590-598.

Testa, M. (2004). The role of substance use in male-to-female physical and sexual violence: a brief review and recommendations for future research. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(12), 1494-1505.

Thomas, C., & Corcoran, J. (2001). Empirically based marital and family interventions for alcohol abuse: A review. Research on Social Work Practice, 11(5), 549-575.

Velleman, R. & Templeton, L. (2003). Alcohol, drugs and the family: Results from a long-running research program within the UK. European Addiction Research, 9(3), 103-112

Walsh, C., MacMillan, H.L. & Jamieson, E. (2003). The relationship between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment: Findings from the Ontario Health Supplement. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(12), 1409-1425

Woodcock, J., & Sheppard, M. (2002). Double trouble: Maternal depression and alcohol dependence as combined factors in child and family social work. Children & Society, 16(4), 232-245.

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