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, scientists say.

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 daughters of alcoholic parents have more increased risks for substance use disorders and mental health disorders than sons do. The study also showed that having been raised by both biological parents and having a college degree indicated a lower frequency of both alcoholic mothers and fathers by over 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The Yale study found that daughters of alcoholic fathers and/or mothers have nearly a one-third greater risk of becoming alcoholics themselves than do the sons.

The chances of developing bipolar mania are greater for sons of fathers with alcohol use disorders and daughters of mothers with alcohol use disorders. Daughters of alcoholic mothers have a higher chance of developing schizoid personality disorder and nicotine dependence than sons too.

Increased Risks for Females

Having an alcoholic father puts females at a higher risk for every mental disorder with the exception of dependent personality disorder. Females with alcoholic mothers are also at a higher risk for every mental disorder except for hypomania, panic disorder, and pathological gambling.

Increased Risks for Males

Males in the study were shown to not have as many risks for individual mental disorders. They showed no greater risks for pathological gambling or dependent personality disorder with an alcoholic father and no greater risks for mania, hypomania, panic disorder with agoraphobia, social phobia, pathological gambling, nicotine dependence, dependent personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder with an alcoholic mother.

Research has shown that having an alcoholic mother significantly increases a son's risk of developing panic disorder, an illness typically diagnosed in females.

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