Previous studies have shown that alcoholism can run in families, but new research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has found that stressful situations can increase the likelihood that children of alcoholics will drink.

The researchers divided participants into groups on the basis of whether they came from a family with a drinking problem. Participants were randomly assigned experimental situations with varying degrees of stress. According to a Gothenburg press release, the groups were then allowed to drink alcohol in an experimental consumption test or a placebo, depending on which situation they had been randomly assigned.

“The results show that people with parents who have a history of alcohol abuse drink more than others when exposed to stress,” said researcher Anna Söderpalm Gordh. She said this behavior can have negative consequences down the road for children from alcoholic families.

“If alcohol relaxes you when you’re stressed, then you should try to find other ways of calming yourself down,” she said. “Relaxation exercises, for example.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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