Can Children Inherit Alcoholism From Their Parents?

Parents pass a number of traits onto their children such as height, temperament or eye color.  A new study suggests parents also may be passing on a risk of alcoholism.Researchers have discovered a strong link between parental alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and the risk of their children developing an AUD.  In other words, a parent’s alcoholism is associated with a increased risk of alcoholism among their children.

Danish researcher Erik Lykke Mortensen, associate professor in medical psychology at the University of Copenhagen and author of the study, collected data from over 7,000 people regarding alcohol abuse and other psychatric disorders.  They also examined parental alcohol use, gender and social status.

The results showed that parental alcohol abuse corresponds to offspring alcohol disorders, independent of other predictors such as gender, social status and other psychiatric disorders.

Furthermore, Mortensen said, the association appeared to be stronger for female offspring than it was for males.

“The key message for the general public is that there is an increased risk associated with parental alcoholism,” said Mortensen, “but obviously many other factors determine whether an individual develops an AUD.”

The study will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.