Fathers’ Alcohol Affects Children’s Alcohol, Drug Habits

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Alcohol dependence or abuse among fathers living with adolescents (youths aged 12 to 17) may increase the risk of alcohol or illicit substance use among their children according to a new national study. The study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the rate of past year alcohol use was dramatically higher among adolescents living with a father with an alcohol use disorder than those living with a father who had not used alcohol in the past year (38.8 percent versus 21.1 percent).

“Father’s Day provides another opportunity to point out the important role fathers play in influencing their children’s attitudes and behavior regarding alcohol and substance use,” said SAMHSA Acting Administrator, Eric Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H. “This study highlights the continuing need to educate fathers, mothers and other role models about the profound impact their drinking behavior can have on their children.”


The study also showed that the vast majority of fathers living with adolescents (68.1 percent) used alcohol, but did not have a drinking disorder. About one third, (33.2 percent) of these fathers’ adolescent children engaged in underage drinking in the past year.

Nearly 1 in 4 fathers living with adolescents (24.2 percent) abstained from drinking alcohol in the past year. On the other hand, 1 in 12 fathers living with adolescents (7.9 percent) met the clinical definition of having an alcohol use disorder.

The study also indicates that paternal alcohol use affects the likelihood of adolescent use of illicit drugs. Adolescents living with fathers who abstained from alcohol were far less likely to use illicit drugs in the past year than their counterparts living with fathers who had alcohol use disorders (14.0 percent versus 24.2 percent). The rate among adolescents living with fathers who drank, but did not have drinking disorders was 18.4 percent.

Fathers’ Alcohol Use and Substance Use among Adolescents, is based on 2002 through 2007 data drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, involving responses from 11,056 fathers and 9,537 father-child respondent pairs.