Alcohol Dependence: Nature vs. Nurture

If you were a child of an alcoholic would you be concerned about developing your own struggles with alcohol abuse? Is nature or nurture the stronger factor in the development of alcohol dependence?

In a situation where somebody of my parents was diagnosed as alcohol dependent, I would pay more attention to the risk of developing the condition myself. The reason for concern is the existing evidence that alcohol abuse depends at least partially on the genetic predisposition to the issue. In other words, nature would at least partially determine my likelihood of becoming alcohol dependent in such a scenario.

Fortunately, it is not a strong determinant, and the outcome depends on several factors, many of which are social. In the studies provided by Ksir and Hart (2015), the dramatic difference describes the situation within the already impacted population, and the effect is significantly lower once the group that is not exposed to the social influence is taken into the equation. Therefore, while it would be unwise to ignore the factor of genetic predisposition altogether, it must be acknowledged that its influence is relatively minor. Thus, in my opinion, nurture is a stronger factor.

What is fetal alcohol syndrome? What advice should the doctor give to women who ask if it is safe to consume alcohol while pregnant?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a condition observed in newborn children and related to excessive alcohol consumption by mothers during pregnancy. The condition is diagnosed by observing one or more of the following symptoms: observable growth retardation, a range of abnormalities in the face and head, and one of the several dysfunctions of the central nervous system, such as mental retardation (Ksir & Hart, 2015).

Thus, if I were in a position to advise a pregnant woman, I would say that, despite the popular misconception, there is no amount of alcohol that can be termed safe. While it is possible to minimize the risk, it cannot be eliminated completely without excluding alcohol from the diet. It would also be interesting to ask if the recommendations can be reformulated in a way to address the said misconception.


Ksir, C., & Hart, C. L. (2015). Drugs, society, and human behavior (16th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.