No. VII (1976)

Children from 200 Families of Alcoholic Mothers and Fathers

Published 1976-12-01


  • social maladjustment,
  • social pathology,
  • child,
  • social classes,
  • alcoholism,
  • compulsory treatment of alcoholics

How to Cite

Strzembosz, A. (1976). Children from 200 Families of Alcoholic Mothers and Fathers. Archives of Criminology, (VII), 265–286.


1.  Subject of discussion will be such families of alcoholics (involving mothers and fathers) from the area of Warsaw, where the necessity arose to curtail, or suspend parental authority or deprive parents of such rights completely. The families investigated can be divided into the following categories: families where only the father was an alcoholic — 95 families (49.5%), families in which the father as well as the mother were alcoholics 64 families (33.3%) and families where only the mother was an alcoholic 33 familes (17.2%).* Note in the material studied here that as many as 54.5% of the mothers were considered to be alcoholics, and in this case 46% of these mothers-, alcoholics were registered as prostitutes. The mothers who were alcoholics had in 39% of the cases been convicted by courts (those who were not alcoholics in about 20% of the cases).

Data regarding fathers who were alcoholics, whose average age in 1973 was 44 years, testify to the fact that the majority of them had no prior convictions or were only once convicted (57%): those with multiple convictions (four times and more) accounted for 20%. In the delinquency structure of the fathers was a predominance of violent offences committed when intoxicated.

The majority of the fathers (57%) did not work or worked only on and off . The material conditions in these families of alcoholics were very unfavourable. 68% of these families lived in misery and want.

Complete neglect of the children was found as regards the overwhelming majority of the fathers (62%) and a large number of mothers (41%).

Especially adverse was the situation in families where the mothers were alcoholics and where misery and want was found in as many as 80%, complete neglect of the children by mothers in two-thirds of the families.

As results from the above-mentioned data the situation of children in the families examined (especially in families where the mothers were alcoholics) was very bad; the criminality on the part of the fathers was, however, not a special problem here.

  1. 2. In 200 of the families of alcoholics, surveyed here, 487 children below the age- of 18 were brought up — 258 boys and 229 girls. Among these children, 20% were of pre-school age, 39.8% between 7 and 12, 38.2% between 13 and 17 years.

The follow-up period was studied, regarding 487 children and juveniles from these families until the oldest among them (being at the beginning of the study above 10 years old) had reached the average age of 20 years. It should, however, be borne in mind that during the follow-up period only those data were at the disposal which could be obtained from official records, which contained information about cases brought before a court and arrests of these individuals by the police. Thus, an essential shortcoming, connected with the impossibility to conduct environmental interviews, is the lack of information about other facts, besides those in the records, such as symptoms of social maladjustment or whether the investigated individuals possessed professional qualifications and whether they had worked, in which milieu they had lived, whether they had systematically drunk alcohol to excess, etc. But data found in the records of the guardianship court, regarding the school period of the juveniles exactly characterize the extent of their social maladjustment.

Significant is above all the fact that the sons of alcoholics (fathers and mothers) were often delayed in their studies at school. Among the boys below ten years one-third were already delayed in their studies: at the age between 10 and 12 half of them, however above 12 three- fourths. Among the latter there were 63% delayed by two or more years. Among girls below 10 years 14% were delayed, at the age between 10 and 12—44%, and above 12 — as many as 69%. Among girls aged above 12—43% were delayed by two and more years. Among older boys as well as older girls approximately half were children, systematically playing truant. Note data, pointing to the fact that as many, as 35% of the girls between 14 and 17 showed symptoms of sexual demoralization. In 1975 when 270 boys and girls were already above 18 years old, and their average age amounted to 20 years, it turned out that 22% of the boys had already been tried by juvenile courts, 18% had been brought before juvenile courts as well as the ordinary court and 16% only before an ordinary court. Thus generally speaking, those who faced trials during their juvenility or were convicted after having reached the age of 17, accounted for as' much as 55%. Those convicted when over 17 accounted for 34%, in addition to this 12% were indicted, which gives a total of 45% of young adults who committed offences that were reported when they were over 17 years of age. The percentage given above (55%) of those who were tried when still juveniles or convicted after the age of 17, should be considered as a high one. But the degree of delinquency disclosed is small (62% of the convicted individuals were convicted only once); it should, however, be borne in mind that only three years divided them from the age of amenability to law.

To the above mentioned data should be added information regardin arrests by polic because of intoxication — as many as 61% of those convicted (or tried) had already been arrested before because of insobriety, and among those without court records — 12%.

However, information regarding the delinquency of daughters of the investigated families testifies to the fact that only 15% of them had court appearances (taking into account also the period when they were juveniles). None of the girls was registered as a prostitute.

Worth emphasis is the fact that children brought up in families where the mothers are alcoholics were not more frequently convicted or. arrested because of intoxication, than those where only the father was an alcoholic.

The entire aspect of data related to the follow-up period of children from families of alcoholics up to the time when they were on an average 20 years old indicates that approximately half of the boys (45%) were neither convicted nor arrested by the police because of intoxication and that 79% of the girls were neither convicted nor arrested by the police. These data, due to the lack of detailed environmental interviews, as already mentioned before, do not permit identification of this category of juveniles with young adults showing no symptoms of social maladjustment.

Examining the entire aspect of the studies under discussion it would be worth while to mention the results of research, conducted under the guidance of Professor Swięcicki in the years 1967—1968 on children of families of alcoholics, who underwent treatment in several outpatient clinics to cure their drinking habit, results which showed, that in these families there were twice as many pupils repeating the same grade in school and young persons between 18 and 27, maladjusted to life in society, than in families of control groups from the same social milieu.

Simultaneously a significant fact was noted, namely that in families belonging to the category with the worst expectations a considerable part of children did not reveal symptoms of social maladjustment. One may assume that to a considerable extent this depends on the biogenetic and psychogenetic features of the children partly being modified by sociogenetic factors, be noticed themselves, which are only in our studies, too, could a considerable group of young adults, not convicted arrested in an inebriate state by the police, youngsters who perhaps did not reveal symptoms of social maladjustment, something which could, however, be established only on the basis of detailed studies of the milieu.


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