Alcoholic Stepfathers Spell Trouble for Girls

The girls face higher risk of behavioral problems than boys in same setting

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WEDNESDAY, May 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Girls living with an alcoholic stepfather face a higher risk of developing behavior problems than boys in the same household situation do.

That gender divergence is reported in the May issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The study also found that risk for behavior problems was higher among girls who live with an alcoholic stepfather than girls who live with their alcoholic biological father.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, interviewed 1,580 twin youths from intact families and 166 youths from stepfather families, assessing whether they suffered psychatric problems. Parents and stepfathers were interviewed about their lifetime history of alcoholism, antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, panic disorder or social phobia.

"Our findings suggest that alcoholism in a stepfather may explain a significant portion of the increased risk for conduct disorder symptoms in girls in stepfamilies, perhaps as a result of the disrupted and stressful family environment often associated with parental alcoholism," lead author Debra L. Foley said in a prepared statement.

Mothers in stepfamilies suffered more alcoholism, antisocial behavior, major depression and social phobia than mothers in intact families, while stepfathers had a higher incidence of alcoholism and major depression than biological fathers in intact families.

More information

The National Institutes of Health have more about alcoholism.

SOURCES: Virginia Commonwealth University, news release, May 10, 2004

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