A questionnaire sent to people in 12 step programs found that 45% of those attending sexual addiction support groups had at least one alcoholic parent. Among the general population, about 18% of adult Americans were raised by an alcoholic parent, but only 3 to 6 percent of Americans suffer from some form of sex addiction (predominantly men), according to the National Association of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. So, it’s quite significant that sex addicts are 2.5 times more likely to have grown up with an alcoholic parent than the general population. There are a number of theories floating around as to why alcoholics are more likely to raise sexual compulsives. I have listed a few below:
Theory 1 – Just as alcoholics use their drinking to relieve uncomfortable emotions and cope with their fear of intimacy, sex addicts may use sex as a means of dealing with their negative emotions and as a replacement for the emotional intimacy they crave, but don’t know how to attain.
Theory 2 – In alcoholic homes, the entire family is controlled by the alcoholics’ usage of alcohol and the mood swings that accompany both its use and its absence. Even the non-alcoholic parent may be more focused on their alcoholic significant other and their addiction than on their children. So, the first relationship the children witness is dysfunctional and co-dependent. They never learn how to achieve emotional intimacy with another person, because they have never seen it modeled and they have never experienced true intimacy in their relationships with either of their parents because of the focus on addiction. And the shame of coming from an alcoholic home prevents such children from forming intimate bonds with friends, for fear that they might discover the truth about their family.
Theory 3 – A genetic predisposition to addictive behavior could also be the cause of sexually compulsive behavior in the children of alcoholics. If there really is an addiction gene, then the person who inherits it could become addicted to just about anything. Example: Some food addicts who underwent gastric bypass surgery to lose weight, later replaced their food addiction with shopping, gambling, smoking, drinking, and narcotic addictions.
Theory 4 – Anyone in the thrall of addiction is pretty much incapable of being a fully present and active parent, and lackluster parenting means that children are left vulnerable to abuse, of all kinds, and early exposure to sexual material and/or experiences. According to The Ranch, “Many sex addicts report some form of abuse or neglect as children and frequently see themselves as diminished or damaged in the process.”1
You may be wondering, What about other addicts? So far, there’s no data regarding narcotic, gambling and other addicts raising sexually compulsive children, but if any of the aforementioned theories hold any water, then, sadly, they probably do as well.
I would be interested to know if parents addicted to prescription and narcotic drugs, gambling, shopping and (most commonly) food have raised sexually compulsive children. Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments.
1 “Sex Addiction”. The Ranch, n.d. Web. February 12, 2016