This paper is the first in a two-part series. In this paper the literature on the intergenerational transmission of alcohol problems is reviewed from an environmental perspective. It is concluded that there are effects of problem drinking on children, but that the long-term effects of parental problem drinking on the offspring once they reach adulthood are not so well documented. It is suggested that whether or not intergenerational continuities are found depends largely upon the source of the sample, that very little is known about adulthood outcomes other than drinking status, and that there is a striking sex bias in the literature, with most research examining the effects of problem-drinking fathers upon their male offspring. Possible mechanisms whereby parental problem drinking could affect adjustment are outlined and discussed. The notion of disturbed family relationships acting as a possible mediator for the transmission of problems is raised.