No family is conflict-free. But when one parent is addicted to alcohol, the amount of arguing that goes on in the home is higher than normal. That kind of home environment hurts everyone, including the children. The good news, according to a new study, is that if dad will take steps to deal with his drinking problem, then things improve not just in him but inside the home as well.
Alcoholism and Family Conflict
Alcohol use never remains a personal matter. It affects marriages. When one partner in the marriage has an alcohol problem, the likelihood of divorce soars by at least 20 percent over sober marriages. Children of alcoholic parents also suffer. These kids have a harder time succeeding in school. They often struggle socially as well since they don’t feel safe bringing friends over to their home and can’t depend on parents to shuttle them to and from social clubs and organizations. Children of alcoholic parents frequently demonstrate behavioral problems because they just don’t know how to handle the sadness and instability at home.
A Study of How Treatment Impacts Conflict
The new study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors took a look at 67 families where a father addicted to alcohol was beginning therapy. The researchers were interested in the father and changes wrought in him through treatment but were mostly curious to see how dad’s progress affected his sober spouse and his 4- to 18-year-old children. A baseline questionnaire was given and revealed that the children of alcoholic fathers were in pain. Watching their own mom and dad fight created a measurable amount of relational stress. The children’s self-reporting of witnessed conflict was compared to self-reporting by children who lived in homes without an alcoholic parent. The kids in homes where dad was drinking saw much more marital distress and conflict.
Six Months Later
However, once the father had been through six months of addiction treatment, questionnaires revealed that these children were witnessing only the same amount of marital conflict as the children living in families without alcohol addiction. Just a few months of effort on the father’s part resulted in a major change in the home atmosphere. Therapy led to improved family harmony.
One Year Later
Of the 67 fathers who entered treatment at the beginning of the study, 20 dads achieved full sobriety that was still evident at the one-year mark. Another 43 fathers had experienced relapse during the year. There were four dads who dropped out of the study. Researchers followed up with the 63 families at the one-year mark in order to assess conflict levels inside the home.
Treatment, Not Perfection, Makes a Difference
The really great news was that whether or not the father had managed to stay sober for the full year, every family reported less conflict within the home following treatment. When the father received therapy, there were improvements in the home climate even if dad was not 100 percent successful in staying away from alcohol.