Children of Men with Alcohol Dependence: Psychopathology, Neurodevelopment and Family Environment

Article excerpt

Byline: Vijaya. Raman, Suveera. Prasad, M. Appaya

Background: Children of people with alcohol dependence (COAs) are at high risk for behavioral and cognitive problems. Aim: Aim of this study was to compare the nature and extent of these problems in children of men with and without alcohol dependence. Materials and Methods: 32 children (17 in study group and 15 controls) were evaluated for psychopathology, neurodevelopment, cognitive functioning and family environment. Tools used were: Socio-demographic data sheet, Malin's Intelligence Scale for Indian Children (MISIC), Child Behavior Checklist, Trail Making Test, Neurodevelopment Scale and the Family Environment Scale. Results: Children of men with alcohol dependence had higher externalizing than internalizing scores. Children of alcohol-dependent fathers had higher scores on the neurodevelopment scale and lower scores on the performance scale of the MISIC than the children in control group. These children also made more errors on the Trail Making Test. The family environment of COAs was characterized by lack of independence for its members, greater perceived control and lack of adequate cultural and intellectual activities. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that children of men with alcohol dependence have difficulties with frontal lobe functions and neurodevelopmental tasks. There are also difficulties in the family, which are related to alcohol consumption by the father.

Introduction

Parental mental illness and its impact on the development and behavior of children has been an active field of research over the last two decades.

Children of parents with alcohol dependence syndrome are particularly at high risk for substance use as well as other emotional and behavioral problems such as learning disability, hyperactivity, psychomotor delays, somatic symptoms and emotional problems. There have been attempts to study various aspects of children of people with alcohol dependence from India and some published literature is available that looks at various domains in the same sample. [sup][1],[2],[3],[4]

Cantwell's review of prior research indicated that families of hyperactive children have increased prevalence of alcohol-dependent and sociopathic fathers. [sup][5] Six of the seven studies of parents who were alcohol dependent found some association with child hyperactivity. Other childhood conduct problems have also been found such as lying, stealing and truancy. [sup][6],[7],[8]

Adolescents who abused alcohol reflected a 46% of parent alcoholism, that is, in 46% of adolescents who abused alcohol, there was family history of alcoholism in the parent/s. [sup][9],[10] There was an increased prevalence of physical aggression and low anxiety and this best distinguished sons of male alcohol dependents from normals. Another study concluded that central nervous system hyperexcitability may be etiologically linked to the excess of externalizing behaviors observed in this population, which is thought to be a predisposition to a higher risk of developing early onset alcoholism. [sup][2]

Lieberman, in a review, states that children of alcoholics are two to ten times more likely to develop alcoholism than children of non alcoholics. Children with relatives who abuse or are dependent on alcohol apparently have a slightly higher risk for drug abuse or dependence than those without relatives who consume alcohol. [sup][11] Evidence from twin and adoption studies has highlighted the significance of genetic influences, and the heritability of alcoholism has been estimated at 40-60% [sup][12] Risk factors that mediate the increased vulnerability and protective factors which moderate the risk included in this review are parental antisocial personality disorder, externalizing behavior, internalizing symptoms, differential response to the effects of alcohol and positive and negative alcohol related expectancies.

Neuropsychological functions in these children have been the focus of attention over the last decade. …