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Alcoholics' kids face behavior problems.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have found that children with at least one alcoholic parent are at increased risk for oppositional and conduct disorders. These may contribute to drug and alcohol abuse and other associated conditions in adulthood. If both parents are alcoholic, the incidence of these behavior disorders is even higher.

Oppositional and conduct disorders can evolve into major problems as these youngsters grow into adulthood. "Oppositional disorder refers to a negative, stubborn sort of child who won't do anything you want him to do," explains Wendy Reich, research assistant professor of child psychiatry. "He or she won't cooperate or clean up after themselves, or be polite."

Conduct disorder children have more serious worries, including truancy, shoplifting, and drug and alcohol abuse. About half of the kids diagnosed with conduct disorder will grow out of it, but the other half probably will develop serious psychological and psychiatric conditions in adulthood, from alcoholism to anti-social personality.

Alcoholism has a genetic component, as do many illnesses. Data suggests the offspring of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves. The gene or genes connected to alcoholism have not yet been identified.

If untreated, oppositional and conduct disorders can lead to a dysfunctional adult life. Reich points out that it only takes one alcoholic parent to contribute to the development of these behavioral problems in children. "Parents, particularly parents who are severely alcoholic, almost can not be good parents by definition. The illness is such that alcohol makes them angry and aggressive. People will lash out at their kids when they've been drinking and say incredibly hurtful things. They don't remember it afterwards, but the kids do."

She cautions that the injuries caused by remarks and behavior affect the youngsters deeply. Moreover, alcoholics often have less than ideal marriages. Their arguing can damage their offspring's psychological well-being, as can the financial crises that often affect families with an alcoholic member.
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Title Annotation:Special Newsletter Edition: Your Health
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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