In this article
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), more commonly known as alcoholism, affects about 14.1 million people in the United States, including fathers.6
AUD refers to a chronic relapsing brain disorder. It’s characterized by the impaired ability to quit or control alcohol use despite the toll it takes on one’s health. AUD can develop after prolonged, heavy alcohol use.4
Those with an AUD continue to drink alcohol regardless of:
People with alcoholism are dependent on alcohol, but not everyone who drinks heavily is an alcoholic.6, 14 About a third of American adults are considered to be excessive drinkers. However, only 10 percent of them are alcoholics.
Your father may be an alcoholic if he seems to depend on alcohol. This is especially likely if alcoholism runs on his side of the family or if he also deals with a mood disorder like depression.
If your father is struggling with alcoholism, he will have a harder time quitting or cutting back on alcohol than someone who binge drinks.
Alcohol addiction changes the brain’s chemical makeup. It makes people want to drink more frequently.
Your dad might be an alcoholic if he:5, 10
If your father is an alcoholic, you’re not alone.
As with parents with any kind of substance use, an alcoholic father can have a major impact on his children’s development.13
The effects can start before a baby is even born. Alcohol use before conception is linked to deficits in brain development. 3
Fathers who drink alcohol consistently and moderately or heavily leading up to conception can hurt their offspring’s development due to exposure to paternal sperm. Basically, they can pass down unfavorable genes.3
In addition, children of alcohol parents might:
Sons of fathers who are alcoholics may struggle with poor self-regulatory strategies. But the same can’t be said for daughters, who performed better than boys in one study’s tasks. They were asked to complete the Stroop Color and Word and Tower of London test. This is a neuropsychological test that assessed their ability to prevent cognitive interference when processing stimuli.2
This may be because more research shows that dads spend more time with their daughters talking more openly about the above emotions and internal dialogues.11
Yes, alcoholism is a risk factor for child abuse and abandonment.7
Studies show that alcohol use by a parent may be associated with physical and sexual abuse in children.15, 16
Research has also demonstrated that children of parents who use substances are more likely to be neglected by their parents than children who reside in non-substance using households.15, 16
Substance use and alcohol use by parents and other family members can hurt children from development through adulthood.
Living with an alcoholic father can be challenging. However, there are tips that can help the situation:1
Only confront an alcoholic parent if it feels safe to do so.
If you don’t feel safe, refrain from confronting your father. Reach out to one of the resources below for help:
There are plenty of treatment options available for people who struggle with alcoholism, including:
The reality is that no one will seek help or try to change if they don’t want to themselves. If your father won't accept treatment, you can’t force him to.
Some states, however, do allow involuntary commitment for substance addiction treatment, including alcohol addiction.12
In this article