Alcohol abuse can wreak havoc on an individual’s health and emotional well-being. But, it doesn’t just affect the alcohol abuser. Family members are affected as well, sometimes to a tragically great degree. The overall effect on family members may differ according to what the family structure is, but there are almost always negative consequences. Here are eight negative effects alcohol abuse may have on the family.


1. Household Instability

Household stability requires structure and routine. Family members should know what to expect from each other and fulfill their family roles reliably. When a family member is abusing alcohol, it can throw the entire family structure into disarray.

Alcoholism doesn’t follow a schedule; it can be difficult to form reliable family routines when a family member is always or periodically drunk. Alcohol also changes behavior. When a person abuses alcohol, family members will not know what to expect from them at any given time. An alcoholic parent may enforce household rules when sober, and then fail to enforce those same rules when intoxicated (or vice versa). This can take an especially hard toll on children living with an alcoholic parent, because they may fail to have stable boundaries and rules to live by.

2. Financial Strain

Alcohol is not free. An obvious negative impact of alcohol abuse is that it takes money away from something more valuable. If a family lives on a tight budget, this can be a serious problem. Even when a family has plenty of money, it would be better spent on things that enrich the family rather than wasted on a destructive habit.

3. Reduced Intimacy and Family Time

Often when a person abuses alcohol they withdraw from their family. Moreover, family members may not want to spend time with someone when they are intoxicated. Spousal intimacy and quality family time suffers as a result.

4. Creation of a Negative Environment

The alcohol abuse of a family member causes everyone stress, and this can in turn create a negative household atmosphere. Family interactions are built around criticisms and complaints. Arguments are a daily staple, and empathy and support become harder and harder to muster.

5. A Lack of Balance in Parental Roles

When one parent abuses alcohol, the other parent may compensate by taking an outsized role in caretaking for children and making important family decisions. This creates an imbalanced sense of parental authority in the household. In some cases, children may take on a co-parenting role to fill in for a parent that is failing due to alcoholism to fulfill their role.

6. Feelings of Neglect and Low Self-Esteem for Children of Alcoholics

Studies have shown that parental alcoholism can cause low self-esteem, loneliness, guilt, feelings of helplessness, fears of abandonment, and depression in children. Children of alcoholics can develop a number of psychological problems as a result of their parent’s alcohol abuse, such as anxiety or panic attacks. These children can have trouble with relationships and struggle in school. A United States government survey found that only 20% of men from an alcoholic family attended college, and that 30% of women that failed to graduate high school came from alcoholic families.

In cases where a child living at home abuses alcohol, parents naturally focus their efforts on getting the child help. But, this can lead siblings to feel neglected. Siblings may feel that the parents only care about the child with problems abusing alcohol and feel resentful.

7. Development of Unhealthy Dependencies

When adult children abuse alcohol, they can develop an unhealthy dependence on their parents or other family members. For instance, they may rely on parents for support and money at a time when they should be maturing into a self-reliant adulthood.

8. Alcohol Abuse Increases the Chance of Domestic Violence

It is indisputable that alcohol abuse and domestic violence are linked. One study cited by AllPsych found that 75% of domestic violence incidents involve a family member that is an alcoholic. Even if an alcohol abuser isn’t physically violent, alcohol abuse can lead a person to exhibit other selfish behavior and offensive behavior in the household.


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