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Is It Possible to Tell if Your Child Will Become an Addict?

Parents’ greatest fear is that their kids will become addicted to drugs and alcohol


This is according to a Parent Co. survey with over 1500 participants. Fear of drug and alcohol addiction vastly outweighed concerns about terrorism, economic collapse, crime, and war. When we shared the results of this survey, comments from readers could be grouped into three categories:

  1. Parents saying “Of course this is our biggest fear!”
  2. Parents asking if it’s possible to analyze their kids’ behavior and attitudes for signs of future addiction.
  3. Parents asking about the factors that contribute to future addiction.

We set out to research these answers with help from AddictionWise, an online service for families and friends of addicts. (More on AddictionWise below.)

From harmful substance abuse of alcohol or drugs or cigarettes to gambling, sex, food, or exercise, addiction can manifest in many forms.

While research continues to explore the scope of addiction and addictive behavior, the bottom line is that science has yet to isolate an “addictive personality.”

However, there’s strong evidence that some people are born vulnerable to addiction. It’s also often possible to predict a child’s’ risk of future addiction.

Genetics, relationships in childhood, environmental and social influences, adolescent experimentation, and the existence of an underlying personality disorder may ultimately contribute to the development of addiction and addictive behaviors.

The biggest indicators of future addiction problems are:

  • Genetics – a family history of addiction
  • Association with drug-abusing peers
  • Drug and alcohol experimentation in adolescence

It’s important to note that parental understanding of the mechanics of addiction is a powerful preventive tool.

Addiction is a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., something perceived as being positive or desirable). – Wikipedia

Genetics

A history of  family addiction may be the strongest indicator of future addiction.

Many studies have shown that children of addicts have a much greater chance of becoming addicts themselves. Environmental factors may play a role, but a history of family addiction may be the strongest indicator of a child’s future addiction risks.

According to Doug Sellman of the National Addiction Center, heritability runs at about 50% of the cause of addiction.

Dr. A. Thomas McLellan has determined that though more research is needed on the topic, genetics has a critical role in whether or not an individual will develop an addiction, just as chronic illness can be passed from one generation to another.

Undercontrolled Temperament

[We] have firmly established that undercontrolled temperament comes before any involvement in gambling.” – Wendy Slutske, who is a professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri

In the past few years, research has focused on how “undercontrolled” temperaments in children strongly correlate to a future probability of addiction.

A large-scale, long-term, longitudinal study from New Zealand found that undercontrolled three-year-0lds were more than three times as likely to become addicted to drugs and twice as likely to have problems with gambling as young adults than their peers with the most self-control.”

Aspects of an “undercontrolled temperament” include:

  • a lack of self-control, including rapidly shifting emotions
  • impulsive and willful behavior
  • relatively high levels of negative feelings such as alienation and negative emotion
  • less conscientiousness and less social agreeability compared to  peers

Even after factors like IQ, gender, and socioeconomic status were accounted for the association with addiction still held. And when the “undercontrolled” children were assessed as adults, they hadn’t changed all that much. (This is also shown in this California Child Q-Set study.)

About 10% of children in the study exhibited an undercontrolled temperament.

Relationships With Peers and Adults

Children who have poor relationships with peers and adults are more at risk for addiction.

A child’s environment and family additionally can affect the development of addictive habits. Dr. Robert B. Millman has advocated that children who have poor relationships with peers and adults are more at risk for addiction whereas those with positive relationships are at less risk. Dr. Hatterer also confers with this perspective and elaborates a child who suffers abuse is also at risk for developing an addiction later in life.

Moreover, Dr. Hatterer articulates that a lack of consistent parenting throughout childhood also influences future addictive behavior patterns.

Drug experimentation in adolescence

Association with drug-abusing peers is often the most immediate risk for exposing adolescents to drug abuse and delinquent behavior. – Drugabuse.gov

A 30-year prospective study found that early-exposed adolescents remained at an increased risk for poor outcomes. Approximately 50% of adolescents exposed to alcohol and drugs before age 15 had no conduct-problem history, yet were still at an increased risk for adult substance dependence.

Likewise, children who feel isolated or alienated are at risk for addictions. They may lack self-confidence and not know how to reach out to others for their emotional needs. .These children may eventually turn to addictive substances to cope.

According to David Sack M.D:

“For peer groups where substance abuse is the norm, the future looks bleak. Nine out of 10 people who end up addicted started drinking, smoking or using drugs by age 18, CASA reports. One in four high school students who drinks or uses drugs becomes addicted. Drinking at an early age is linked to dangerous binge drinking in young adulthood. Many people come to treatment with histories of drug abuse spanning decades, or the majority of their young lives, making the recovery process more challenging.”

Childhood Trauma

When a child has suffered a trauma such as physical, mental, or sexual abuse; the death of a parent; or neglect, she may turn to addictive behaviors or substances to help cope with her pain and stress. This is especially true if she hasn’t been taught healthy coping strategies.

Changes in Brain Chemistry vs. “Addictive Personality.”

There’s aren’t always signs of addictive traits in childhood. For many people, addiction is a progressive disease.

Addiction isn’t necessarily the consequence of an “addictive personality” (which technically doesn’t exist; see below) as much as a result of changes in brain chemistry.

Dr. Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, contends that “voluntary and controllable” drug and alcohol use can eventually morph into a daily addiction. Continued drug use alters the brain’s functioning and structure.

Leshner even considers drug addiction a form of brain disease.

“The development of addiction is like a vicious cycle: Chronic drug use not only realigns a person’s priorities but also may alter key brain areas necessary for judgment and self-control, further reducing the individual’s ability to control or stop their drug use. This is why, despite popular belief, willpower alone is often insufficient to overcome an addiction. Drug use has compromised the very parts of the brain that make it possible to “say no.” – Drugabuse.gov

Summing Up

A child with increased risk of addiction isn’t destined to become an addict.

Addiction typically begins as a symptom, not a cause, of personal and social maladjustment.

Addiction is a complex process. Many people gamble, drink, and take drugs without becoming addicted.

Addiction should always be viewed in the context of an person’s developmental history. It’s most often the result of a biological or behavioral predisposition. For example, many studies show that depressed or impulsive people are more likely to drink and take drugs.

But addictive tendencies don’t mean a child will inevitably become an addict. Parental understanding of the mechanics of addiction is also a powerful preventive tool. Families can help provide protection from later drug abuse when there is:

  • a strong bond between children and parents
  • parental involvement in the child’s life; and
  • clear limits and consistent enforcement of discipline.

Research shows that parents and caregivers can help kids learn to practice self-control, which is a major factor in future prevention. Even undercontrolled children can outgrow self-control problems over time, and learned to rein in their impulses as well as their peers who showed earlier mastery.

This article is presented in partnership with AddictionWise.

AddictionWise is an online platform that helps family members manage the stress and difficulties of addiction in a loved one.

It brings videos and articles from leading addiction counselors, physicians, and therapists together with a supportive, private community where family and friends of addicts can find support and ideas from each other.

If  you or someone you know is struggling with an addicted family member, see how AddictionWise can help.

Visit AddictionWise


“Addictive Personality” vs Personality Disorders

Commonality is evident among different addictions, though research hasn’t found psychological characteristics specific to a so-called “addictive personality.”

Psychologist Hans Jugen Eysenck posited that addictive habits serve an important functionality to the individual with an addiction,  specific to their personality.

Notably, the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association most recently in 2013) does not classify an “addictive personality” as a personality disorder. Rather, addictive characteristics can underlie or co-exist with a personality disorder that manifests in “maladaptive cognitive, emotive, and behavior patterns,” such as social deviance from accepted societal norms.

Maladaptive behavior patterns, exemplified by the inability to implement effective coping strategies, delay gratification, and empathize in addition to black-and-white thinking, impulsive and irrational behavior, moodiness, sensation-seeking and a lack of forward-thinking skills, are possible signs of an addictive personality.

An individual with an addictive personality may also highly value nonconformity or deviant behavior and have difficulty making commitments and setting goals.

Furthermore, an existing personality disorder can lead to substance abuse as coping mechanism. An “addictive personality” or addictive habits have the propensity to reinforce an existing personality disorder.

Personality disorders are categorized into three clusters: A, B, and C.

Cluster A disorders, distinguished by “odd, eccentric thinking of behavior” include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders, that stem from genetics and brain chemistry.

 Cluster B includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Cluster B disorders, characterized by over-emotional, selfish, and unpredictable thinking and behavior, are diagnosed more regularly than Cluster A as these disorders have roots in childhood.

Cluster C includes avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, which are predominantly disorders identified by anxiety and fear. Though a person may be diagnosed with one personality disorder, he or she may also exhibit signs of another personality disorder.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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