1 in 10 Kids Have an Alcoholic Parent, US Study Says

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

According to a report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in 10 U.S. children live with an alcoholic mother or father.

That translates to approximately 7.5 million children who are currently exposed to alcohol abuse within the home.

SAMHSA’s data was gathered between 2005 and 2010. The study was then published as an adjunct tool for Children of Alcoholics Week.

“The enormity of this public health problem goes well beyond these tragic numbers as studies have shown that the children of parents with untreated alcohol disorders are at far greater risk for developing alcohol and other problems in life,” SAMHSA representative Pamela Hyde said in a statement.

SAMHSA estimates 6.1 million children live in households where the mother and father are both present; the remainders live in single-parent homes. What’s more, an overwhelming majority of those single parents — 1.1 million – are females and head of households.

The Family Effects of Alcoholism

SAMHSA discovered some concerning information among children living with an alcoholic parent:

  • Children living with alcoholics are at greater risk of developing mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Half of those who began drinking by the age of 14 developed an addiction later in life.
  • The children of alcoholics are commonly abused and neglected by parents.
  • Children of alcoholics are more likely to have cognitive or language deficiencies.
  • Kids with an alcoholic parent are (genetically) four times as likely to develop alcoholism.

Children exposed to alcoholism are also at an increased risk for emotional traumas and chronic diseases, such as obesity or diabetes. In addition, most, if not all, children of alcoholics will require some form of professional counseling to avoid repeating parental mistakes and the pitfalls of addiction.

Alcoholic parents can also unwittingly encourage children to abuse alcohol. This fact especially rings true during adolescence, when kids are most likely to start drinking alcohol. A 2006 study by the Boston University School of Public Health shows when people start drinking at a young age, they pose the highest risk for continued drinking and alcoholism.


If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, take action and find alcohol abuse and addiction treatment options in your area.

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