researchers at the boston university school of social work found that while parental alcoholism can serve as an indicator of long-term harm to children, contrary to common beliefs it is not a direct cause.
“the study shows that a positive family environment may be able to overcome very negative childhood experiences.” said lead author margaret griffin.
the study found that women were particularly strongly affected. when they had alcoholic parents, they had more negative adult outcomes than women without alcoholic parents.
however, parental alcoholism alone did not directly contribute to these troubles. instead, the effect of having alcoholic parents was indirect, due to the increased likelihood of childhood stresses such as sexual abuse, the lack of a confidant, poor family communication, and family conflict and the decreased likelihood of childhood resources including family cohesion and expressiveness.
in fact, negative adult outcomes such as alcohol problems, depressed mood and poor social adjustment and life satisfaction could be seen equally in women without alcoholic parents who were exposed to the childhood stresses examined. these childhood stresses and lack of resources, then, were the pivotal influences on negative adult adjustment, regardless of the parent’s status as an alcoholic or nonalcoholic.
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