The risk that children of an alcoholic parent run of developing a psychiatric illness later in life may depend, in part, on their gender and whether it was their mother or father who was alcohol-dependent, a new study finds.
The link appears to be strongest between mothers and daughters, according to the new findings, says a team from Yale University.
It was already known that the adult children of alcoholic parents are at increased risk for psychiatric illnesses, but the effects of child or parent gender weren't well known.
The researchers analysed data from more than 23 000 males and almost 17 400 females included in the US National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
The mother-daughter connection was most influential in increasing a daughter's risk for mania, nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse and schizoid personality disorder, the study found.
While not as strong, there was also increased risk of psychiatric illnesses among the adult children of alcoholic parents in father-son, father-daughter, and mother-son pairings.
The study appears online and in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"The problems caused by alcoholism are not limited to the individual who suffers from it. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of alcoholism in a parent, and adult children of alcoholics are in general at much greater risk for developing every type of psychiatric illness," study corresponding author Peter T. Morgan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale, said in a journal news release.
"The key, new finding of this work is that the effect parental alcoholism has on children is different depending on the gender of the alcoholic parent and the gender of the child," he said.
The study results are important in two ways, Morgan added.
"First, these findings reiterate how damaging alcoholism can be to the mental health of children who grow up with an alcoholic parent," he said. "Second, and particular to this study, these findings indicate that in a family with an alcoholic mother, daughters may be at greater relative risk for developing psychiatric problems. Such information could be used to identify parents at potentially greater risk for certain disorders and could be used to encourage reduction of substance abuse in parents." - (July 2010)
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