Paternal Exposure: Alcohol and Offspring Development

Alcoholism of fathers is one of the most critical factors influencing the development of their children. Its effect has long been ignored due to the complexity of such a study and seeming impossibility to prove the hypotheses but finally confirmed by researchers based on an animal model (Cicero, 1994). The conducted experiments allowed them to conclude on several developmental issues resulting from regular consumption of alcohol by fathers. Such issues include behavioral patterns of children related to alcohol consumption, the consequences of their fathers’ alcoholism, and its long-term effect on a child borne to an alcoholic father.

The principal concern of the researchers was connected to the difference in the behavior of sons borne to alcoholic and non-alcoholic fathers. It was explicitly demonstrated on the example of adopted children who had no influence from their biological parents and thereby allowed to make precise conclusions on the causes of their behavioral patterns. Thus, the children of alcoholic biological fathers raised by foster families were reported to show abnormal hormonal responses on short-term alcohol consumption (Cicero, 1994). Moreover, they appeared to be more likely to develop a strong alcohol addiction compared to the adopted sons from non-alcoholic parents living in alcoholic families (Cicero, 1994). These results contributed to the intention of researchers to study the mechanism of a genetic predisposition for alcoholism among children resulting from their fathers’ addictions.

The impact of alcoholism was proved on an animal model, and the results contributed to the understanding of its consequences related to conception. The principal conclusions, which were drawn from studies in rats, related to the reduction in fertility and the emergence of developmental problems such as a smaller size of a fetus (Cicero, 1994). As a result, an increased level of infant mortality among the litters of those fathers who were given alcohol was reported (Cicero, 1994). Therefore, the viability of offspring is related not only to the mother’s health status as previously believed but also to the father’s behavior resulting in the emergence of complications mentioned above.

The effect offathers’ alcoholism on the further development of children proved to be of a long-term nature. The presence of such an addiction primarily relates to the offspring’s cognitive abilities. Such children also tend to demonstrate a higher degree of hyperactivity, which does not contribute to cognition (Cicero, 1994). Further examination of the negative impact of fathers’ alcoholism on children’s development revealed bad results of their tests related to spatial learning (Cicero, 1994). Moreover, the researchers noted hormonal disturbances in the offspring of male rats exposed to alcohol (Cicero, 1994). Such conclusions implied further need for examination of heavy alcohol consumption by human male adolescents and its impact on their future children.

The conducted experiments related to the influence of fathers’ alcoholism at any age on the development of their children allowed to conclude on the presence of several developmental disorders. They start from the moment of conception and have lifelong consequences for offspring. Animal tests were the first steps on the way to the understanding of this mechanism and preventing the harm caused by unsound patterns of alcohol consumption by fathers. They proved the genetic predisposition of children to hormonal changes, their differences at the stage of fetal development, and the cognitive impairments of adult children. Thus, the behavior of fathers plays a significant role in the health status of their offspring.


Cicero, T. J. (1994). Effects of paternal exposure to alcohol on offspring development. Alcohol Health and Research World, 18(1), 37-41.

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