The effect of alcohol on a family in Ireland

Laura Hunt

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Alcoholism affects a home in many ways; it can lead to financial problems, arguments between family members, and accidents and injuries in the home. Two major issues that are caused from heavy drinking in the home are child welfare and domestic violence. Statistics show that 1 in 11 children are impeded by parent’s alcohol addiction, and every 1 in 6 cases of child abuse in Ireland are associated with alcohol, according to Alcohol Action Ireland.

In 2009, Alcohol Action Ireland’s ‘Keeping it in the Family Survey’ was carried out among Irish adults who had grown up in homes with heavy parental drinking. The survey found that 71,000 adults said that during their childhood, they regularly were afraid and felt unsafe in their homes because of their parents being under the influence of alcohol. The same number also said that they each had the responsibility of looking after a younger sibling while growing up.

Deprived Child - Picture Credit (Flickr)
Deprived Child – Picture Credit (Flickr)

Children are fully dependent on their parents, both emotionally and physically. Parents or guardians should ensure their child’s basic needs are met, such as ensuring good health, safety, and proper education. But when a parent or guardian is constantly drinking alcohol, their children’s needs are not their first priority. Children in homes of alcoholism are often neglected. They are not cared for like a child should be; they are not fed, washed or given any attention to. As well as physical needs being forgotten, children’s emotional needs are also derelict.

According to American psychologist Dr. Janet Woititz, children who grow up in a dysfunctional home where alcohol is an issue are also more likely to have depression, stress related illnesses, or eating disorders. They are also probable to follow in their parent’s footsteps and become addicted to alcohol, or other substances.

Alcohol in the home - Picture Credit (Writers own)
Alcohol in the home – Picture Credit (Writers own)

Apart from alcoholism effecting children in a home, it also puts a strain on relationships. A high rate of heavy drinking in marriages often leads to couples divorcing.  In some families, one of the parents may abuse alcohol, leaving their partner having to fulfil both of their responsibilities. This can lead to economic hardship, material alienation, isolation and chronic unemployment.

Alcohol regularly makes people aggressive, and is one of the main causes of domestic violence in homes. Women are more so at a risk of domestic violence in their home if their partner or spouse are heavy drinkers. Alcohol can increase a person’s sense of control and power, which is why some people become violent when under the influence of alcohol.

Drinking trends in Ireland has changed over the years, according to a spokes person from Alcohol Action Ireland. Today, 60% more alcohol is purchased in off-trades than in pubs. Alcohol is being sold extremely cheap which is influencing more people to drink in their homes rather than in pubs. Ireland has normalised heavy drinking in today’s society. People drink to get drunk, not to socialise. An average, 3 people die every day due to alcohol related diseases, yet nothing is done to change our drinking habits.

A spokes person from Samaritans informed me that , one in four people in Ireland have been harmed because of someone else’s drinking. A report from the HSE, “Alcohol’s harm to others in Ireland”, found that although 28% of people have experienced a negative consequence as a result of another person’s abuse of alcohol, little progress has been made in the last two decades in implementing effective policies to reduce alcohol related harm.

Drinking in the home - Picture Credit (Flickr)
Drinking in the home – Picture Credit (Flickr)

Abusing alcohol in a home destroys relationships and tears families apart. Domestic violence, depression, neglect, emotional abuse, illness and isolation are all affects of alcohol. People should not be afraid to reach out for help when living in a home of heavy drinking. Speaking to someone and dealing with the issue is the only way a person will be able to free themselves from their precarious home environment. Otherwise, alcohol abuse will continue to devastate a person’s life, and have detrimental effects to those around them.

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Laura Hunt