our everyday life

Characteristics of Toddlers Growing Up in an Alcoholic Family

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

Alcoholism is a disease that doesn't just affect the person doing the drinking. When a parent or guardian is an alcoholic, it can alter a toddler's life. Growing up in a home with an alcoholic family can manifest itself throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Lack of Security

Alcoholic caregivers often aren't stable and consistent when it comes to providing a toddler with a routine and schedule such as regular mealtimes and a consistent bedtime. When toddlers don't know what to expect, they aren't able to build a sense of security. Children with alcoholic parents are often confused, as well, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Alcoholic parents tend to be loving one moment and angry, lethargic or disinterested the next. Without consistent care and attention, many toddlers are left wondering what mood their caregiver will be in and are worried that they'll somehow make that person angry.

Behavior Problems

Many toddlers with an alcoholic parent or caregiver will misbehave or act inappropriately as a cry for help or as a way to get the attention they crave. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, many children living in a home with an alcoholic will act aggressively toward other children and withdraw from their peers and other family members. Toddlers who live in alcoholic homes are more likely to exhibit truant behaviors, fail at school and engage in risky behavior as they get older, according to the "Alcohol Health and Research World" journal.

Depression and Anxiety

Children of alcoholics are more likely to be depressed compared with children who don't live with an alcoholic caregiver, according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. In younger children, this can manifest in behaviors such as bed-wetting, crying and nightmares. As a toddler grows older, he might also withdraw from peers, develop hoarding behaviors and become obsessed with his self-image. Children of any age might feel lonely, sad and helpless, too, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes.

Long-term Risks

Children who grow up in an alcoholic home are more likely to become alcoholics when they get older, according to "Alcohol Health and Research World" journal. Toddlers who spend many years watching their caregiver drink too much might believe that it's normal and take up similar behaviors when they grow up. Toddlers living in an alcoholic home are also more likely to be abused compared with children who live with parents who aren't alcoholics. In fact, substance abuse, including alcohol, plays a role in 81 percent of child abuse cases, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports. Symptoms of child abuse include physical signs such as bruises and broken bones, and emotional signs such as low self-esteem, withdrawal from peers, difficulty trusting adults and regular behavioral problems.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images