Alcoholism and the Nature vs. Nurture Argument
Does the environment that one grows up in contribute to alcoholism or is alcoholism determined by genetics? It wasn’t until 1991 that alcoholism was considered both a medical and psychiatric disease by the American Medical Association. Alcoholism is defined in the dictionary as a chronic disorder characterized by dependence on alcohol, repeated excessive use of alcoholic beverages, the development of withdrawal symptoms on reducing or ceasing intake, morbidity that may include cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased ability to function socially and vocationally. (dictionary.com). It is also defined as an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol dependency. Today in America there are 12 million who have this life long disease. (Alcohol and Depression) Alcoholism is a treatable disease, but one of the most important factors when trying to successfully treat this disease and prevent relapse, is finding its root cause. This is where the nature vs. nurture debate merges with alcoholism. Researchers have two main theories as to why certain individuals become and alcoholic and others can continue to drink socially with no issues. The first belief is that a person’s environmental factors including upbringing and outside social influences caused the person to become an alcoholic. The second belief is a person’s genetic makeup and the way that their bodies physically metabolize alcohol contributes to the chances of them having a predisposition towards alcoholism. Researchers are on both sides of this argument. The following essay will address the different contributing factors on both the nature and nurture sides. On the nurture side, researchers believe that environmental factors including: family history, location, advertising, childhood trauma, and early exposure can lead to alcoholism. The Nature argument states that people’s genetic makeup makes them more likely to become alcoholics.
A person’s family history can have a direct affect on their intake of alcohol and it could increase the chances of them suffering from alcoholism. Children who have an alcoholic parent are four to eight times as likely to become alcoholics themselves. (Family History of Alcoholism) Often when professional therapists talk about substance abuse they refer to the term “behavioral disinhibition.” Behavioral Disinhibition is described as “the inability to inhibit behavioral impulses.” Peter R. Finn, Professor of Psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington stated, "Those high in behavioral disinhibition are probably more likely to experiment with substance use earlier, because they are less inhibited by the prospect of negative consequences and less likely to learn to moderate their consumption once they have initiated use. Some research suggests that the presence of a family history of alcoholism amplifies this risk." Children see their parents as role models and often emulate their parent’s actions. If a child sees their parent constantly drinking alcohol they will be more inclined to imitate this behavior. Just because a child grows up in a home with an alcoholic parent doesn’t necessarily mean they will suffer from alcoholism, but research suggests that children who grow up with alcoholic parent are much more likely to have a troubled childhood. (Family History of Alcoholism) Location
A person’s geographical location may cause them increase their daily alcohol consumption which could lead them to become an alcoholic. Some research indicates that people who live in areas that are poor and/or rural have a high acceptance of alcohol. Additionally, people who live in areas with harsh climates are more likely to drink. People who live in poor areas often have harder lives and struggle to make ends meet. It is logical to assume that they may drink more...
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