Alcoholism and Its Influences on Family


In this paper, we are going to discuss the dangerous influence of alcoholism on family. In particular, we need to focus on such issues as the rupture of family ties and alienation of parents and children. For this purpose, we may refer to various scholarly articles dedicated to this problem, and to the autobiographical novel The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, in which the author describes the sufferings she had to undergo mostly because of this horrible disease.

Naturally, this book cannot be analyzed only within the context of addictive behavior, as it is much more complex, and Jeanette focuses not only on this aspect, she also explores such themes as forgiveness and her search for a better future. Nonetheless, some parts of this work are quite applicable for this research.

The degradation of a person

Every person, who is obsessed with the desire to drink alcoholic beverages, is hardly able to think of anything else. Apart from that, he is almost bound to forget about all his former interests, commitments, and duties. These things become virtually trifles for him or her (Orford et alp 34). The addiction also drives him to act against his conscience and do things which he would not do under normal circumstances, such as to steal, to deceive others, to trick money out of them and so forth. To a certain degree, Rex Walls is an example of such behavior especially when he began to steal money from other people and from his relatives.

His wife, Rose is utterly astonished but he does not even try to exonerate himself (Walls, p 228). According to some scholars, the metamorphosis or degradation, to be more exact, is always gradual, and very often such individual can be quite adequate. The thing is that during lucid intervals, this parent usually regains his former qualities such as warmth, kindness, compassion etc (Edlin et al, p 408). However, this improvement is only temporary (Schlesinger, 55). The same rules imply to Rex Walls, who is very strongly inclined to offend his relatives for instance, his mother-in-law by using “the most inventive vocabulary” (Wall, 20), he absolutely overlooks the fact that this woman is much older than he is, and that she cannot possibly deserve such treatment.

The rupture of family ties

Nevertheless, this degradation of a person is not the only consequence, which alcoholism entails. In this case, we should refer to the rupture of family ties, and members of an alcoholic family no longer trust each other. They do not feel the former unity or unanimity, which previously laid foundations for their happiness. In her article Sandra Turner points out that in the vast majority of cases it significantly impacts female members because women are more sensitive.

That does not necessarily mean that they can be addicted; sometimes it is due to the fact that they cannot overcome the feeling of helplessness. This eventually results in very acute depression (Turner, 10). In the long run, they practically withdraw from interactions with other family members. At the moment, we may take a closer look at Rose Walls conduct, namely to her avid interest in painting. Naturally, she is a talented artist but this activity only serves as a shield from everyday hardships.

She wants to “do a painting that lasts forever” but she is so absorbed by art that she barely pays attention to her children and their needs (Walls, p 56). Furthermore, psychologists argue that very often their maternal instincts become much weaker (Turner, p 14). Rose Walls remembers about her motherly duties only when she realizes that her husband is on the verge of insanity.

The estrangement between parents and children

Overall, the most detrimental effect of alcoholism is the suffering of children, who live in such families. In this case, we should speak about the estrangement between parents and their off-springs. First, they feel the lack of care, very often they are virtually left to their own devices. It is also believed that parents alcoholism can strike a heavy blow on an infants self-esteem (Turner, p 14). The underlying cause of alienation is self-destructive behavior of parents.

Consciously or subconsciously children understand that this addiction leads only to decay and decline. Thus, they try to fence themselves from it or even to escape from such parents. With the reference to The Glass Castle, we may say that Jeanette Walls and her siblings seek to help Rex and Rose but at the same time they strive for independence, and eventually, they pluck up their courage to leave home.


Therefore, we can arrive at the conclusion that such addiction as alcoholism impacts not only a separate member but the whole family as a social unit. First, it leads to the degradation of the person and forces him to commit the actions which he immensely abhors. Secondly, a drinking parent is disinclined to bear any responsibility for his or her children. Thirdly, there is a very strong likelihood, alcoholism hurts female members of the family and gives rise to depression. Finally, this disease may estrange parents from children, who often feel neglected and abandoned. Jeanette Walls novel The Glass Castle is an insightful work that warns us against the dangers of addiction and shows that it stirs up enmity among most near and dear ones.


Gordon Edlin, Eric Golanty. “Health and wellness”. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2006.

Jeannette Walls. “The glass castle: a memoir” Scribner, 2005.

Jim Orford, Judith Harwin. “Alcohol and the family”. Taylor & Francis, 1982.

Sandra Turner. Alcoholism and Depression in Women. Affilia 1992, (7), pp 8-22.

Schlesinger, Stephen E. Review of Alcohol and the family: Research and clinical perspectives. Psychology and Addictive Behaviors 1992 (6), 1, pp 54- 59. Web.

Theodore Jacob. Kenneth Leonard. Sequential Analysis of Marital Interactions Involving Alcoholic, Depressed, and Nondistressed Men. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1992, (101), 4, pp 647- 656. Web.

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