Clinical and Research News
Parents' Alcohol Use: Danger Signal
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 10 page 44-44

It is well known that the children of parents with alcohol abuse or dependence have an increased chance of growing up to experience alcohol problems themselves and that stress in the home is one of the many factors that contribute to this problem.

For children who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research lends credence to the theory that certain behavioral traits associated with ADHD may make the youngsters more vulnerable to problems stemming from this stressful or difficult home life and thus raise the risk of future problems with alcohol.

"When a child has ADHD and the parent has suffered from alcoholism, either currently or in the past, the child will have an increased risk of alcohol problems himself or herself," Brooke Molina, Ph.D., told Psychiatric News.

Molina, who also found that adolescents and young adults diagnosed with ADHD as children had much higher rates of alcohol abuse and dependence than counterparts without ADHD (see "Comorbid ADHD, Conduct Disorder Raises Alcohol-Abuse Risk"), used the same sample from the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study to determine what effect, if any, ADHD may have on children growing up in a home where parents have an alcohol use disorder.

She and primary investigator Michael Marshal, Ph.D., interviewed 142 adolescents who had been diagnosed with ADHD as children and 100 demographically matched adolescents without ADHD in the Pittsburgh area and asked them questions about drinking behaviors and negative life events. The researchers also gathered information about parents' drinking histories.

They found that ADHD "facilitates the transmission of pathological alcohol use from parent to child" in part because the children have poorer skills for coping with stress in the home related to parental drinking.

An abstract of "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Moderates the Life Stress Pathway to Alcohol Problems in Children of Alcoholics" is posted at<www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2007.00340.x>.

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