Women With an Alcoholic Parent Have More Risk Factors

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There are differences in how parental alcoholism affects daughters as opposed to how it affects sons, particularly when it comes to psychopathology, or mental health disorders, in each gender.

Daughters of alcoholics are affected by a parent's alcoholism in many of the same ways that sons are. Both are at higher risk of developing alcohol abuse disorders compared to children of non-alcoholic parents. But there are some differences in how women are influenced, according to research.

Certain Behavior Problems Appear to Be Shared by Men and Women

Children of both genders who have parents with a substance use disorder are at a higher risk of externalizing symptoms, negative behavior that's focused outward, resulting in disorders such as conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and substance use disorders. Children of parents with a substance use disorder are also at a higher risk of internalizing symptoms, negative behavior that's focused inward.

If parents have a current substance use disorder, kids are more at risk of developing both externalizing and internalizing symptoms. In the case of parents who are in recovery from substance use disorder, kids are more at risk of developing externalizing problems, but not internalizing problems.

Gender-Related Differences

A ​Yale study analyzing responses from 23,006 men and 17,368 women showed that regardless of gender, both maternal and paternal alcoholism was associated with a higher prevalence of developing alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders, as well as psychiatric disorders.

However, the study found notable differences among daughters of mothers with alcoholism, showing that they were at the highest risk for developing mental health disorders as adults.

The Yale study found that daughters of alcoholic mothers had the greatest risk for developing mental health issues.

Increased Risks for Females

The study found that daughters of alcoholic mothers had a higher chance of developing mania, nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse, and schizoid personality disorder later in life. Daughters of alcoholic fathers, on the other hand, were at greater risk for becoming alcoholics themselves

Increased Risks for Males

Sons of fathers with alcoholism, meanwhile, had a chance of developing bipolar mania, and sons of mothers with alcoholism were at risk for developing panic disorders.

Research has shown that having an alcoholic mother significantly increases a son's risk of developing panic disorder.

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  1. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Alcohol Use in Families. Updated May 2019.

  2. Bountress K, Chassin L. Risk for behavior problems in children of parents with substance use disordersAm J Orthopsychiatry. 2015;85(3):275–286. doi:10.1037/ort0000063

  3. Morgan PT, Desai RA, Potenza MN. Gender-related influences of parental alcoholism on the prevalence of psychiatric illnesses: analysis of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related ConditionsAlcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010;34(10):1759–1767. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01263.x