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Suffer the children

9th September 2006

11042006_boy_lonely.jpgA study says that children who grow up with alcoholic parents bear emotional, behavioural and mental scars.

The report, ‘Suffer the Children', by the private healthcare provider The Priory, said there are currently over 3.6 million adult children of alcoholics in the UK who bear the scars that are a direct result of being raised by alcoholic parents.

The Priory study said children of alcoholics were four times more likely to be addicted to drink and there was a risk of drug and gambling problems. A child's early life was characterised by chaos, trauma, confusion and shame and, quite often, sexual and physical abuse. Fifty five per cent of domestic violence occurs in alcoholic homes.

The report, which reviewed existing data on crime, abuse and alcoholism as well as consulting its own doctors and therapists, said growing up in an alcoholic household was inextricably linked to abuse.

Alcohol was a factor in 90% of child abuse cases; the Priory said that  a third of daughters of alcoholics experienced physical abuse and a fifth sexual abuse - up to four times higher than in non-alcoholic homes.

Children either became withdrawn, went into denial or used the experience to benefit themselves by becoming stronger, said the report, but problems surfaced when they had to confront difficulties. They also struggled to develop strong personal relationships.

Previous studies showed that 70% of children of alcoholics develop compulsive behaviour, half ended up marrying alcoholics, and children of alcoholics were four times more likely to become alcoholics.

Priory addictions expert Dr Michael Bristow said that "Alcoholism affects the adult alcoholic's entire family, particularly the children." However, Dr Bristow stressed that “The cycle of alcoholism and abuse can be stopped. Alcohol dependency can be successfully treated at all stages if the person is willing to change."

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