Role Played by Genetics on Alcoholic Children

How Genetics Play a Role on Alcoholic Children


Alcoholism is perceived to be a complex genetic disease that is brought forth by distinct genes that perpetuate the vulnerability. Therefore, particular genes of alcohol metabolism that have been identified include the ALDH2 and ADH1B (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). The two have proven to have a significant contribution to the risk of alcoholism. As such, one can argue that individuals possessing these genes have an increased urge for alcohol and have the highest possibility of carrying it across their generations. Kids born of parents with these genes are less likely to quit alcohol as their desire for alcohol is quite high and constant. They thus develop a maladaptive pattern of excessive drinking accompanied by the serious problems associated with the behavior (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). Moreover, alcohol has been noted to run across lineages, particularly when one draws evidence from a source like the adoption studies. Therefore, studies on adoption reveal that children are less likely to take up alcoholism from their adoptive parents than their biological parents.


Consumption of alcohol is a habit that is distributed across the globe. However, its the rate of consumption that distinguishes consumers. Additionally, the recommended amount of consumption cuts across gender lines. Therefore, an average female consumer of alcohol ought to not exceed a drink per day. On the other hand, males should not exceed two drinks per day. Observation of the average gauges of drinking promotes cardiovascular health. However, exceeding these levels results in alcoholism (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). Dependence on alcohol has been defined by meeting criteria such as prompting one to fail to attend to their normal obligation, continuous dangerous use, continued regardless of the social problems that it has caused, levels of tolerance shown by a user, intake of drugs to avoid withdrawal, drinking beyond expectations, unsuccessful trials to quit, taking too much time in alcoholic deals, affected social relationships as well as excessive craving for alcohol ((Barnow, 2002). The behavior depicted by an individual indicates their level of addiction to alcoholism.

Despite the rate of alcohol intake being attributed to peer influence and stress, family ties have, over time, been attributed to individual resistance to quitting alcohol. As a result of addiction to alcohol, some disorders have been experienced in families to the extent of cutting across generations (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). The aspect can thus be said to be easily deduced upon the study of inheritance and variations among living organisms. Diseases such as liver cirrhosis, alcoholic pancreatitis, cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, diabetes, liver cancer, cancer of the upper GI as well as fetal alcohol syndrome are inevitable in generations that are prone to alcohol abuse (Begleiter, & Kissin, 1995). Since men tend to drink more heavily than their female counterparts, they are highly susceptible to the diseases triggered by high consumption of alcohol. Therefore, they are at a higher risk of succumbing to these diseases than women. The paper seeks to establish the relationship of alcoholism in children concerning their genetic makeup (Barnow, 2002).

Literature review

The genes ALDH2 and ADH1B are inherently responsible for the replication of the alcoholic habits to generations from parents (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). Therefore, children born of such parents depict a reduced resistance to the risk of alcoholism. Other genes that facilitate the transmission of the vulnerability of alcohol to children include GABRA2, AUTS2, CHRM2, as well as the KCNJ6 (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). Therefore, alcoholism can be termed as a genetic disease. Despite its ability to run in families, several evidences classify it as a genetically transmissible behavior. Such include the studies on adoption, which give an implication that alcoholic adoptive parents are not likely to carry forward the risk, unlike in the case of a biological relationship (Barnow, 2002).

Additionally, twin studies in the United States of America indicate that an approximation of between forty-five to sixty percent of the spread of the risk can be attributed to genetic factors (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020).  The study has also prompted an experiment where rats and mice were bred in different settings. The experiment was aimed at testing for preference for alcohol, dependence as well as their sensitivity to withdrawal. As a result, the outcomes were facilitated by their genetic composition as different genes are phenotypically distinct. Therefore, the study confirmed the overwhelming evidence that differences in genetic makeup have an active contribution to the risk of dependence on alcohol.

Moreover, there is no specific gene that is responsible for alcoholism; thus, they only play the predisposing role (Barnow, 2002). Children taking up alcohol dependence from parents are facilitated by the favorability of the social factors as well as the surroundings. Therefore the factors associated with genetic makeup not only determine whether or not one will be reliant on alcohol but also their vulnerability to diseases that emerge from addiction to alcohol. Again, the amount of alcohol per day consumed by an individual is also influenced by genetic factors (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020).  When individuals of the same family that demonstrated dependence on alcohol are randomly selected, they are likely to depict variants that influence the risk of alcohol dependence. Linkage studies can show the extensive regions of the genome that are responsible for the risk of alcoholism.

In the case whereby an individual has more than one relative who has an addition of either alcohol and other substances, one might inherit the gene that puts them to the risk of contracting the disorder. Thus, the immediate family members are at a higher risk of turning into addicts than individuals living around the addicts and lack a blood relation. However, if one is said to be highly vulnerable to risk, it does not imply that they must take up the habit (Bechtel, 2012). The scenario implies that one can control their urge to indulge in the behavior as they cannot control their genetic makeup. As such, for individuals who are highly predisposed to alcoholism effective measures such as keeping healthy friendships, acknowledging that they are at risk and work against it, seeking relevant counseling, comprehending the symptoms brought about by addiction as well as working towards strengthening family ties.

Additionally, highly predisposed and have experienced the signs of the disorder are advised to seek relevant treatment with the immediate effect. The early stages of the signs would be addressed by subjecting an individual to effective counseling (Bechtel, 2012). The initiative will play a significant role in helping the predisposed individual from coping with the likely influences in their society and environment, which would promote their indulgence in alcohol dependence.

Research, findings, and opinions.

According to Skomorowski, ‘An examination of the relationship between coping with stress and alcoholism in adult children of alcoholics,’ children that are genetically inclined to alcoholism have their environment predisposing in the sense that, alcohol is at their disposal, peer influence is at its peak, and violence is the order of the day and sexual and physical abuse. As such, parental protection is recommended for children that have a genetic susceptibility to alcoholism (Skomorowski, n.d.). Again, initiatives that would prove worthwhile for these kids would be, keeping alcohol out of their reach, improved social skills, and improved parental supervision, teaching children to avoid drugs as well as constantly reminding them of the adverse impacts of alcoholism to both the individual and the society. Hereditary behavior by children is thus seen to interact with the environment to give rise to a pattern of decision making that highly influenced by the environment (Skomorowski, n.d.). As such, for children who are more sensitive to stress, their ability to cope with unhealthy relationships that usher them into alcohol misuse is low. Such children ought to be advised on the need to effectively cope with traumatizing events as they are inevitable (Skomorowski, n.d.). They thus need to understand that self- medication on alcohol complicates the situation rather than offering a long-term solution to the problem. However, children with a high susceptibility to alcohol abuse are driven by non-hereditary factors such as the society and environment to develop their dependence on alcohol.

According to Wilhelmsen (2002), ‘Identification of Alcoholism Susceptibility Genes,’ Biochemical markers have been employed to explain the predisposition to alcoholism made use of closely and newly matured platelets that have been released and possessive high levels of MAO (Maomine Oxidase) activity. Additionally, the markers would include products of the gene and yield favorable results (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). The possible sources of variation act as hindrances to the process of evaluation of genetic markers in alcoholics. Again, they are crucial in demonstrating the need for using twins in the study like FHN and FHP. In a particular study, a small population of FHN and FHP men was used (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). The results obtained indicated a trend of reduced activity of platelet Maomine Oxidase in the group with alcoholic members of the same family. Again, when alcohol subjects were divided into type one and two, type two alcoholics was found to have a relatedly lower amount of platelets than type one alcoholics (Wilhelmsen, 2002). An additional study revealed that teenage boys who used to abuse a wide range of drugs and had distinct codes of behavior were found to exhibit type two alcoholism alongside a low platelet Maomine Oxidase activity.

Whihelmsem (2002), argues that information regarding biochemical markers calls for a prudent selection of subjects. However, combining the data with other relevant studies will play a significant role in yielding crucial information on the locus of the genetic material responsible for the vulnerability of children to alcoholism. Therefore, it is clear that an increase in the rates of alcohol dependence is triggered by the interplay of factors that may cause avoidance of alcohol and the positive predisposing factors. As a result, the interaction of the two factors causes an individual to cope with the risks exposing them to alcoholism (Wilhelmsen, 2002). Research on effective treatment and mitigation of alcoholic behavior should be initiated in a bid to reduce the vulnerability of children. Again, alcoholism ought not to either be stigmatized or perceived as an aspect of moral decadence.

According to the investigators at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University Medical Center, a protein PSD-95 was identified. The protein was said to have an association with addiction to drugs, memory as well as learning. The research was conducted with mice as the specimen where mice exhibiting low content of the protein had difficulties in learning in the maze. Additionally, the low protein content drug demonstrated a high level of sensitivity to cocaine. On the other hand, the mice with normal protein content had an easy time learning around the maze. Again, the mice with the normal PSD-95 demonstrated their reduced risk of being addicted to cocaine (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2020). The neurotransmitter dopamine is sharply increases in the presence of cocaine, which allows for an increased feeling of pleasure as well as the highness that addicts of drugs seek (Institute, 2005).  The investigation concluded that protein PSD-95 is likely to be accountable for addiction to drugs such as alcohol, heroin, nicotine as well as morphine.  The situation is so since they depict similar traits in the presence of dopamine. As such, research into the role of genes in addition to drugs has revealed that differences in natural characteristics in the genetic material define the rates of the vulnerability of individuals to drugs and abuse. Further, genetic factors concerning drug addiction can be vital in providing new ways of comprehending the concept of addiction, thus offering more information on the necessary therapies and treatment of alcoholism.


Psychoanalytic theory can be employed to explain the genetic influence of alcoholism in children. The theory consists of ego, superego as well as id as its components. Super ego brings responsible for thoughts and conscience. The ego brings together the id and super ego while the id can be perceived as impulsive, instinctive, and childlike. The super ego controls the impulses of the id as it knows right from wrong. The theory explains the driving force as anxiety, which is the resultant feeling when one depends on defense mechanisms like denial, projection, rationalization as well as regression. Substance abusers are always in denial of the idea that they consume large quantities of drugs (Bower, 2005). Therefore, substance abuse is identified by the theory as a defense against anxiety. As such, addicts use alcohol and other drugs to cope with anxiety from stressing factors such as loneliness and emotional instability. For instance, some individuals spend their entire day watching Tv, and on the bed to the extent of avoiding essential duties tens to abuse alcohol in a bid to brighten up their day and cope with rejection. As a result, the traits of overprotection may be taken up by children prompting them to be dependents on alcohol (Bower, 2005). In a case where a parent is overprotective, the id of the child is prompted to resolve into excessive drinking as a strategy of coping with the parent’s nature. Such situations cause children to become heavy drinkers who depict all the aspects of alcohol dependence, such as irresponsibility, laxity, and diseases that come along with it.

Implicit personality theory can seek to explain how genetics plays a role in alcoholic children. The theory implies that a person’s notions regarding their personality traits have a likelihood of co-occurring in people. The theory gives an inference to a perception of the society on other people. For instance, when the perceiver sees one walking upright and unbothered by the actions of others, then the inference would be that person is confident. Additionally, when the perceiver sees an individual demonstrate a lot of stamina in their way of executing duties, the implication would be that the person is hardworking (Schneider, 2005).  In most instances, implicit personality theories depict social judgment as additional traits are overshadowed by one visible aspect. Therefore, one is perceived to be of good character if they display a few good ones.

On the other hand, if one displays a few bad characters, they are categorized as disrespectful and dishonest. The theory may be applied in genetics to demonstrate that parents are a reflection of their children. As such, perceivers may identify the drinking habits of parents and conclude that their children will be alcohol dependents in the future (Schneider, 2005). On the flip side of the issue, when children are found indulging in misuse of drugs such as alcohol, perceivers may apply the implicit personality theory to argue that they have borrowed the habit from either their parents or guardians.


The concept of genetics as responsible for alcoholism in children is undeniably a debatable topic. One might conclude from the fact that families that have relatives who show dependence on alcohol in large numbers and still give rise to generations of alcohol dependents. However, the idea lacks a scientific validation as there is no specific gene responsible for alcoholism. Therefore, the only concept that supports the topic is that predisposing factors are genetically inherited. As such, it is the genetic makeup of relatives that determine their vulnerability to alcohol dependence (Bechtel, 2012).  The findings of the topic indicate that predisposing factors such as peer group, availability of alcohol, inadequate follow up by parents as well as individual desire to try out things may prompt an individual into developing alcohol dependence. However, I think that despite children growing up in an environment that increases their vulnerability to drugs, parents can avert the situation by keenly monitoring their activities. As such, the role of the parent of instilling good morals to the children and ensuring that they are followed forms the baseline of my counter-argument.

Additionally, derived from scholars are significantly convincing as they explain the trend of alcohol dependence alongside their causes. Therefore, these arguments can be perceived as logical (Bechtel, 2012). The theories seeking to explain the topic are also debatable, particularly the Implicit Personality theory. The theory suffers a shortcoming of random deductions as well as assumptions leaving room for extra questioning of their validity. For the research studies involving mice and their ability to learn movement in the maze, it can be perceived as rigorous as it does not give alterations to the aspects and roles of dopamine.


In conclusion, family studies have pointed out the absence of genetic contribution to dependence on alcohol but inherent predisposing factors. However, some genes determine the vulnerability of children born of alcoholics to depend on alcohol in their later lives. The identified predisposing genes are said to be alcohol metabolizing. The genes play a significant role in influencing the risk of children to alcohol reliance like their parents (Ammerman, & Hersen, 1990). The studies relating to the association between alcohol and genetic makeup has been affected by limited studies on alcoholic phenotypes. As a result, the alcohol research community has sought to integrate various aspects to come up with the appropriate relationship between the two.

Additionally, the studies will also facilitate one to comprehend the underlying factors associated with alcohol dependence and likely measures of mitigating them (Jung, 2009). Again, the theories of Implicit personality and psychoanalysis have played a significant role in pointing out the relation of genetics to alcoholism in children. The possible responses to the topic would be that the hereditary material of the parent determines the rate at which the children can resist or give in into the problem of alcohol dependence. The additional research that would be helpful for this topic would be studying the genetic composition responsible for individual behavior. Again, research on the chances of a child inheriting particular predisposing aspects would be relevant to the study. The research would be crucial in explaining why some children born in alcohol-dependent families are disgusted by the drug despite their genetic susceptibility (Jung, 2009). The implication of the topic to its possible answers is that the genes play a predisposing role and not the actual role of hereditary alcohol dependence.



Ammerman, R., & Hersen, M. (1990). Children at Risk. CA: Springer Science & Business Media