Can Abusive Parenting Trigger Addiction Genes in Children?

Many people say that “children these days have no respect! They need to get smacked around a few times!” I’m not sure what bothers me most about society’s ability to justify hitting innocent children. I believe it is the blatant ignorance to have a belief that is completely outdated, harmful, immoral and not backed by any kind of evidence. The scientific studies about aggressive parenting have been out now for many years. Experts have proven the negative effects of hitting, yelling and other aggressive parenting methods. Why are we not adjusting to these appalling findings? Here is a small list of health concerns I have gathered, Cited from The Bomb in the Brain Part 1- S. Molyneux – available below.

  • Addiction/Alcoholism
  • A 48% greater chance of contracting cancer
  • Lowering IQ
  • Depression
  • Up to a 20 year reduction in lifespan
  • Promiscuity
  • Depression
  • Criminality
  • Anxiety

After seeing the extreme harm we are doing we can’t continue believing in bigoted and outdated parenting practices. We have been hitting children now for thousands of years and expecting different results. That is the exact definition of insanity. The proof is in. It is time to try something new; something that will stop creating a vicious cycle of violence, aggression, hate, major health problems and addiction.

I am an Addict

During my childhood, not a single member in my family thought they would have a heroin addict in the making. That kind of problem was for other families far away from my own. Heroin was something you see in movies or hear about on the evening news. When I was a youngster, just hearing the word heroin scared me to death.

Early on, there were no flares to be shot up, lighting the sky with bright colorful bursts of warning. I hid my growing addiction like the great Houdini; sliding my sharp swords of painful emotion and despair, deep into the dark depths of my inner soul. One emotion piled on top of the other, layer on top of layer while I smiled from ear to ear. No one saw it coming. My family structure appeared tall and strong from the outside, but the foundations were starting to buckle. My addiction started controlling my every move and its weight brought the entire structure down to the ground. Heroin eventually took my transportation, my license, my home, my friends and the trust of my family.

A 13 month sentence in jail (2006) put a brief halt on my heroin consumption after 5 years of IV drug use. Curled up in the corner of a cell, I had plenty of time to think about where my life had gone. My battered and bloody arms told a horrific story and were now a permanent tattoo from years of self-inflicted stabs with a syringe.


Much has happened since 2007, when I was finally released from jail. This was a time when I really began to understand my relationship with my addiction. I had gathered over 2 years of sobriety at one point and another relapse had followed. I knew then why it happened and how it happened and at that time I had realized what I needed to do to stay sober for the rest of my life. The problem was I didn’t want to do it. I was not quite ready to give it up. I had not hit bottom. I was angry deep down that my mind was made up, and that I was about to lose 2 and half years of earned trust. It took years before I hit bottom. The only bottom below that was death or prison.

Trust was completely broken after years of my manipulation and lies towards my family. My family knew through countless let-downs, relapses and disappointments that it would take consistent long term sobriety for them to trust me again.

Once I realized the major impact childhood had on addiction, I began to look at my own relationship with my family. I thought back at my own childhood, trying to remember what kind of childhood I really had. Not the story that I have always told everyone- but the real one. We all create a story about our past that we use to tell others and ourselves. I didn’t know how flawed my story was so I wanted to explore deeper into the truth and try and uncover the false narrative I have always believed. This has proven to be a daunting task and it still is today. It’s not easy to filter through 25 years of life, separating fact from fiction.

I don’t believe I was ever molested or sexually assaulted. My original narrative I have always told in the past was “I had a great childhood.” I don’t say that today. I do remember times when I got hit with leather belts and also with an open hand, both by my father. I also remember being kicked in the back. It is really difficult because I used to believe that I deserved my punishments but now I realize I did not. No child deserves to be abused in any way. Unfortunately, my father died before I took this position, so I didn’t get the chance to talk to him in more detail about my childhood.

My mother was not a “spanker.” She tried it once but it didn’t hurt. She did tell me that she yelled at me and my other two older siblings a lot. This is where I am today in dealing with my past. I am trying to remember a time when my mother yelled at me. For some reason, my mind is blank. I do not remember her ever yelling at me. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that it didn’t have an effect on me, it just means I have either blocked it out or I just don’t recall it.

 An addiction free world is possible

There are obviously other causes of addiction; having a genetic predisposition for addiction can increase the probability of it, but addiction genes are switched on and off by environmental stimuli. . Believing that you will become an alcoholic just because your father was an alcoholic does not fit the last 30 years of scientific research of the human brain, nor does it match the empirical evidence of actual criminals and addicts.

Of course, not all children who were raised with adverse childhoods become addicts or alcoholics, but I have yet to find a violent criminal who was not either sexually, physically or mentally abused during childhood. The proof that environment has a key role in controlling addiction levers in the brain are quite difficult to accept. This is a painful omission for our society. This means that the way we treat our children has a direct effect on our children’s behaviors. If we can see past our own prejudices and insecurities about this issue, we could see how great this news actually is. It means that we, as adults, have a huge impact on how our children turn out and who they will be as adults. An addiction and violence free world is no longer implausible.

There is a reason that corporal punishment is illegal in most of Europe. It is illegal because the effects of abusing our children is horrendously damaging to their brain development and causes even worse behaviors. When you hit, scream, yell and bully your child, you are teaching them 3 things; to be afraid of authority figures, that society uses force to get what they want and that love is violence. Is that what we want to teach our children?

To find more productive ways of teaching children and to learn peaceful parenting skills, the internet is littered with sites that advocate the peaceful raising of children. We extended humanity to slaves, then to women and soon enough, the world WILL extend humanity to the most important people on earth- CHILDREN! We talk about how precious our children are and how we want to protect them; let’s start by not hitting them.

Dustin L. John

I am a writer, blogger, artist and printer. I live in southern Utah with my wife and 3 animals. My sobriety date is February 1, 2012, and I have been sober from heroin and cocaine for almost 6 years. My late father and I co-authored a book over the last 6 years and I anticipate the book to be available this year. For more information and/or to follow my addiction story and discussion topics, visit my blog site at
Dustin L. John