Can't find something? Search Here.

Gender of Alcoholic Parents and Their Children Related to Offspring’s Risk of Psychiatric Disorders

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

It’s commonly known that children of parents who abuse alcohol are likely to develop psychological problems themselves once they reach adulthood. Yet a new study has revealed a gender relationship between the parent with an alcohol use disorder and their children that directly affects the level of risk passed along to offspring. Although just the occurrence of prenatal alcoholism influences a child’s likelihood of developing psychiatric problems, daughters of alcoholic mothers have the greatest risk of developing mental illness.

Researchers from the Departments of Psychiatry (PTM, RAD, MNP) and Child Study Center (MNP) at Yale University’s School of Medicine examined data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to assess the prevalence of multiple psychiatric disorders—including alcohol abuse, nicotine dependence, mania, schizoid personality disorder, panic disorder—in both male and female children. Lead researcher Peter Morgan and his team studied 23,006 males and 17,368 females who grew up with and without an alcohol abusing mother or father, and measured the occurrence of disorders based on gender and maternal or paternal alcoholism.

As a result, researchers found a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders in children of alcoholic parents than children without a history of familial alcohol abuse, regardless of their gender and the gender of the alcoholic parent. However, the gender of the alcohol abusing parent and their child created differing increases in the pervasiveness of specific disorders. For example, sons of alcoholic fathers were associated with an increased risk of mania, but sons of alcoholic mothers were at higher risk of panic disorder. Female offspring showed the greatest disparity among psychiatric risks. Daughters of alcoholic fathers were associated with an increased risk of alcohol abuse, but daughters of alcoholic mothers were associated with increased risk of nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse, mania, and schizoid personality disorder. Female children of alcohol abusing mothers were at the greatest risk of adulthood psychiatric illness than any other child-parent ratio.

Alcohol use disorders may directly affect the health, behavior, and productivity of the individual experiencing it, but ultimately alcoholism is a family disease. Not only does the alcoholic’s behavior affect their relationships with family members, causing various behavioral and developmental problems, but their dependencies have shown to cause specific effects on their offspring’s psychopathology that otherwise could have been prevented. During adolescence, children of alcoholic parents are susceptible to the negative effects of a parent’s drinking problem, and as adults these children face the greatest risk of essentially every type of chronic mental illness. Based on the finding from this new study, specialized intervention and prevention strategies can be implemented that target the psychiatric disorders that are specific to gender-related influences between parents and their offspring. The greater occurrence of multiple psychiatric disorders among daughters of alcoholic mothers, for example, can help families, medical professionals, and policymakers identify individuals that are at highest risk and encourage preventative strategies to aid these families.

The Yale’s research team’s study is available online and in the October 2010 print issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Sources: Morgan, Peter T., Rani A. Desai, and Marc N. Potenza. October, 2010. Gender-Related Influences of Parental Alcoholism on the Prevalence of Psychiatric Illnesses: Analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Published online July 20, 2010. DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01263.x.

HealthDay News, Mom’s Alcoholism Especially Tough on Daughter’s Mental Health, July 20, 2010