There is one ACE in particular that can result in a child experiencing 8 additional ACEs measured in the ACE Study. That particular ACE is having a parent who abused alcohol or other drugs or was addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
As someone with 40+ years of experience coping with various loved ones who drank too much and 16+ years of work studying the scientific research on brain development, ACEs, alcohol use disorders, and the family member's experience, this fact is especially near and dear to my heart. You see, I am the daughter of a parent with an alcohol use disorder.
To further awareness about the connection between "A Parent's Drinking - A Child's Adverse Childhood Experiences," I wrote a post with this title on my blog, BreakingTheCycles.com, March 11. Based on the views it's getting there, I am re-sharing it here.
A parent's drinking - a child's adverse childhood experiences is a connection that's often missed. Sadly, this missed connection can cause a child to develop an alcohol use disorder or marry someone with an alcohol use disorder or develop a host of physical and emotional ailments that can last a lifetime (described below).
As importantly, this connection can cause a child to have difficulty concentrating in school, be misdiagnosed with ADHD, have learning or processing differences, or develop reactionary coping skills, like fighting, yelling, hitting, or angry outbursts. These kinds of reactionary coping skills often cause a child to be labeled a "behavioral problem" and find themselves shunned or bullied by their peers.
About Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
The concept of ACEs and their physical and emotional health consequences came out of a study conducted in the late 1990s by Kaiser Permanente, San Diego and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It was a huge study involving 17,000 Kaiser patients. The study participants were mostly white, mostly middle to upper-middle class, all had health insurance, and all had jobs.
Participants were asked to fill out a 10-question questionnaire. Then, their answers were compared to their medical histories. The results showed that experiencing adverse childhood experiences were linked to a variety of physical and emotional health problems across a lifetime.
These problems included: depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, obesity, diabetes, suicide attempts, heart disease, cancer, STDs, broken bones, smoking, and having a stroke, as examples.
Of the 10 questions asked, the first five were personal, meaning it was something done to the child. These five included numbers 1-5 below. The remaining five were related to other family members’ behaviors that affected the child, numbers 6-10 below:
- physical abuse
- verbal abuse
- sexual abuse
- physical neglect
- emotional neglect.
- a parent who abused alcohol or other drugs or was addicted to alcohol or other drugs
- a mother (or step-mother) who was a victim of domestic violence
- a family member in jail
- a family member diagnosed with a mental illness
- the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death, or abandonment.
The study found that almost two-thirds of the 17,000 participants had experienced at least one ACE. Of those with one ACE, 87% had two or more. The more ACEs a person had, the more likely they were to have or develop one or more of the health problems named above.
The Connection Between a Parent's Drinking and a Child's Adverse Childhood Experiences
The connection is drinking behaviors. Drinking behaviors are the things a person says or doesn't say and the things they do or don’t do when they drink too much alcohol. And it's not just their behaviors while they are drinking. It's their behaviors before and after they’ve had too much drink, as well. Drinking behaviors include:
- Verbal, physical or emotional abuse
- Physical or emotional neglect
- Physical fights or drunken arguments
- Domestic violence
- Problems at work or in school
- Driving while impaired
- Sexual assault; unprotected, unwanted or unplanned sex
- Committing a crime while under the influence (DUI, for example); incarceration for such a crime
Now read through this list of drinking behaviors again. And then read through the 10 ACEs listed above. Notice how a parent's drinking (#6 in the ACEs list) -- the cause of drinking behaviors -- can result in a child experiencing eight ACEs (#s 1-8 above). It is not uncommon for a parent's drinking and the marriage dynamics that follow to result in divorce, which is an additional ACE (#10 above).
What Kind of Drinking Can Result in A Parent's Drinking - A Child's Adverse Childhood Experiences
Drinking behaviors generally occur with one of the following drinking patterns:
Excessive Drinking, which includes:
- Binge Drinking - defined as 4 or more standard drinks on an occasion for women and 5 or more for men.
- Heavy Drinking - defined as 8 or more drinks/week for women and 15 or more/week for men.
Alcohol abuse, which is defined as repeated binge drinking and/or routine heavy drinking.
Alcoholism, which is defined as a chronic, often relapsing brain disease (there is no drink count).
The image below shows various "standard drinks," meaning they contain the same amount of ethyl Alcohol By Volume.
Above Image shows common "Standard" Drinks. All of these drinks contain the same amount of ethyl alcohol chemicals by volume shown. It is the ethyl alcohol chemicals that changes the way the brain works and can result in drinking behaviors.
What Can Be Done to Break This Connection
I urge you to learn more about all of these and other concepts, such as:
- how do you know if a person is "just" an alcohol abuser or is a person with alcoholism?
- why does a person with untreated ACEs have an especially hard time changing their excessive drinking pattern or treating their alcoholism?
- why does experiencing ACEs as a child often cause kids to start drinking (or using other drugs) as teens?
- what happens to the nearly 80 million American's affected by someone's drinking (drinking behaviors)?
- how can you help children understand they have nothing to do with why their parent drinks and the drinking behaviors their parent exhibits when they do nor can they "make" their parent stop or cut back?
To answer these kinds of questions and give you the easy-to-understand scientific reasons behind the answers, I wrote my latest book, 10 Year Anniversary Edition If You Loved Me, You'd Stop! What You Really Need to Know When Your Loved One Drinks Too Much (November 2019).
This book is the culmination of my 40+ years of experience coping with various loved ones who drank too much and my 16+ years of work studying the scientific research on brain development, ACEs, alcohol use disorders, and the family member's experience. It is available on Amazon (linked in above title), in libraries and bookstores, and through other online book retailers.
And, as always - please feel free to contact me to arrange a phone or Skype or What'sApp call (no charge) to talk about your specific issues. My email is lisaf@BreakingTheCycles.com.