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Why Do Kids Pick up Their Parent’s Bad Habits?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, around a quarter of all kids under the age of 18 have witnessed substance abuse by a family member. This is a very dangerous situation. Many of these youths will go on to be victims of substance abuse themselves, and the cycle of addiction continues, generationally, with no end in sight. Why do kids pick up their parent’s bad habits? There are a number of reasons, and things to do about it.

Reasons Why Children Pick up Their Parents Drug and Alcohol Problems

It is no secret that children of drug and alcohol addicts are far more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol later in life. There are a three main reasons for this, which are mimicry, genetics, and abuse.


children copy their parents

Children are more likely to abuse substances when they experience emotional of physical abuse at home.

There’s an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Almost every child wants to be like their mother or father when they grow up. Unfortunately, this extends to bad habits, as well.


There is some scientific evidence that a predisposition for substance abuse is genetic, and transferred from generation to generation.


Children of substance abusers are often victims of physical, emotional, sexual, or mental abuse at the hands of their substance abusing parents. This damages their ability to cope with adversity, and their self-esteem, and increases the likelihood that they will turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort.

How to Spot a Child of an Addict

In many cases, being able to identify the child of an addict, greatly increases the chances that the child can get help to better deal with an unhealthy household. It also increases the chances of the parent getting help with their addiction. There are a number of signs that a kid is the child of an addict. These include:

    Anxiety and depression Unhealthy relationships with peers and family members Problems with self-control A desire to self-medicate

These signs can indicate that the child is in a home with an addicted parent.

How to Help a Child of an Alcoholic Not Pick up Their Parent’s Addiction

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are a number of things that can be done to help reduce the chances of a child picking up their parent’s addictive habits, including:

    Education, such as substance abuse and mental health classes. Media focus, like news stories and online media campaigns that inform the public. Community resources, such as coalitions between educators, law enforcement, and healthcare professionals.

What is being Done to Prevent Youth Substance Abuse?

Education, diversion programs, and community resources all do their part, however, that is not always enough. Especially if their parent is an active alcoholic or addict. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and you have children, the best thing you can do to help them is get the help you need, now. Their future is in your hands. Provide them with a healthy role model that practices only good habits, and end the generational cycle of substance abuse. If you need treatment or suspect that a child in your life does, call us at 1-800-895-1695. We can help.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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