Some conditions that are passed down through a family’s genes are not exactly the kinds of things that anyone likes to talk about. Things like mental illness and alcoholism are very important to understand, yet discussion of them among family members may not be very frequent if they are discussed at all. This can make it difficult to know your family history of these conditions. If you know that someone in your family is an alcoholic or you suspect that there may be an alcoholic in your family, take heart. Although there are genes that are linked to alcoholism that tend to run in families, there are also other factors that can influence whether an individual with those genes becomes an alcoholic or not.
It is fortunate that neither nature nor nurture seems to be entirely responsible for whether a person with a family history of alcoholism becomes an alcoholic. Both genes and environment play an important part. While your genes and your children’s genes are beyond your control, studies have shown that a positive family relationship can be a powerful antidote that can help prevent a child becoming an alcoholic when they get older.
In other words, if a child’s genes put him or her at risk for becoming an alcoholic later in life, the quality of the connection and relationship between that child and his or her family can influence whether that increased risk actually translates into developing the condition. A family situation where the child feels close to and supported by his or her parents can overcome a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. A family situation where the child feels disconnected from or unsupported by his or her parents can work against the child and further increase his or her risk for becoming an alcoholic above and beyond the risk that was inherited.
Alcoholism is an example of a health condition that tends to run in families where the development of the condition is tied to family relations of a different type – the relationships between family members. Strong family connections are important no matter what a family’s health history is. They can help individuals that are at risk for conditions like alcoholism to avoid developing those conditions, and they also provide a valuable framework of love and support for individuals that do become ill for any reason, inherited or not.
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