Psycho-Social Dynamics of Alcoholic Addiction Family Research Paper

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Psyco-Social Dynamics of Alcoholic Addiction Family

Alcoholism is a disease.

It affects the entire family and creates an environment of dysfunction and disorganization.

Within the family, the social and psychological ramifications of alcoholism affect the alcoholic, his or her spouse, and the children.

Children Supporting Paragraph

Children must cope with the effects of an alcoholic on the family (disorganization).

There are five roles which serve as coping mechanisms.

The mascot, placater, acting out child, lost child, responsible child.

Child Roles Supporting Paragraph

Roles either make things better or worse.

The responsible child excels

The mascot and placater child intermediate.

The former does so from foolery, the second from caring.

The lost child disassociates.

The acting out child gets in trouble.

Spouse Supporting Paragraph

A. Spouses are more of a determinant of an alcoholic's behavior than children.

B. Spouses have three perspectives on actions of the alcoholic.

1. They like alcoholism because it gives them control.

2. They compete with their partner about alcoholism.

3. Marital problems influence alcoholism.

V. Alcoholic Supporting Paragraph.

A. The alcoholic is the primary source of family dysfunction.

B. Getting them to stop drinking affects family dynamics positively and negatively.

VI. Conclusion Paragraph

A. Restatement of the various points made in the supporting paragraphs.

B. Acknowledgement of the influence that family members have over one another -- both good and bad -- and advice to family members to use that influence to produce a positive result.

In order to understand the psychological and social dynamics that take place within a family in which alcohol addiction is present, it is necessary to understand some basic facts about the nature of this disease. Alcoholism does not solely affect the alcoholic, but rather creates a dysfunctional pattern and environment which affects everyone around the alcoholic. Although the specific form of dysfunction can certainly vary, certain symptoms include the fact that, "Alcoholic families, for example, exhibit more negative messages among family members…engage in greater levels of openly expressed anger, and exhibit lower levels of warmth, cohesion, and direct communication than nonalcoholic families" (Johnson 127). In the workplace, for example, an alcoholic can create a dysfunctional environment in which there is stress and disorganized behavior. The same sort of thing takes place within the family of the alcoholic, oftentimes more so because he or she spends more time at home with the family and more time their inebriated. Therefore, it is important to consider the way that alcoholism psychologically and socially affects the alcoholic, the alcoholic's children, as well as the alcoholic's spouse.

As alluded to in the introductory paragraph, virtually all people who are continually around an alcoholic begin to exhibit some sort of abnormal behavior that results from this disease. Despite the fact that children of alcoholics may have never taken a sip of alcohol in their lives, they far too frequently exhibit some sort of psychologically and socially deviant behavior which stems from the fact that they are dealing with the disease of alcohol every day. Virtually all members of a family develop certain coping mechanisms to account for the less than normal environment they are in due to the dysfunctional behavior of an alcoholic family member. There are five main roles that children tend to adopt as part of their coping mechanisms: that of the mascot, the placater, the acting out child, the lost child and the responsible child (Devine and Braithwaite 70).

Before explaining just what patterns of behavior each of these roles exhibits in children, it is important to understand that these roles result from a child's attempt to account for the disease of alcoholism. In some of the roles the child tries to make things better, in others he or she attempts to make things worse. Yet all of these roles simply prove that alcoholism is a contagious disease that affects everyone around the alcoholic -- whether they drink or not since "All family members are affected as the alcoholic person goes through the progression of the illness. Each member reacts with a "survival behavior," that is, a behavior that causes the least amount of personal stress" (Glover 185).

The responsible child, which is alternately called the hero child (Devine and Baithewaite 70, attempts to make up for the dysfunctional behavior of his alcoholic parents by excelling in virtually everything he does. This includes activities both inside and outside of the family. Both are attempts to prevent the need for a parent to drink by pleasing him or her with the child's activities and success. The hero child is essentially trying to compensate for his or her dysfunctional family by exceeding expectations in everything else that he or she does. Oftentimes these individuals are overachievers who rarely are able to enjoy their success (Glover 186) -- largely because of the turmoil that they encounter at home.

There is a degree of similarity between the mascot and the placater child, although the most common distinction is the fact that the former attempts to act as a jokester to alleviate the tension of alcoholism, while the other does not. According to Glover (1994), "mascots use charm and humor to survive in a painful family system" (185). These children are somewhat similar to the hero or responsible child in that they are acutely aware of the fact that there are enormous problems in their families. However, their solution is to provide comic relief to try to make things better, instead of trying to be a model or exemplary child (like the hero child).

Children in the placater role try to minimize family tension through the means of empathy and caring. Both placaters and mascots "act as a go-between" (Devine and Braithwaite 70) to try to dispel stress in the home environment. Specifically, placaters try to mitigate conflicts and dysfunctional situations by interacting with the various parties in the family that are involved in these situations. They try to help make things better for them as individuals so that the entire situation is less troublesome. There is a lot of responsibility placed on the child -- or which the child takes -- in the placater role, more so than in other roles (such as the lost or acting out child).

The effects of alcoholism on the lost child are certainly negative. He or she simply becomes detached and distant from everyone and everything around him -- at home and otherwise. These actions are an attempt of these individuals to effectively "hide" (Glover 185) from the discomfort of their surrounding family structure -- which also influences the life of the child outside of the family. Lost children may typically be quiet or perhaps even despondent in their interactions with others because they are used to 'tuning out' the chaos of their family life -- and of the world around them.

The acting out child typically engages in antisocial or criminal behavior, frequently getting in trouble, perhaps as an internal cry for help. What is of importance is that "in the case of the acting out child, parental drinking added to the problems posed by family disorganization" (Devine and Braithewaite 75). In this regard the dysfunctional behavior that the child exhibits (such as his or her tendency to get in trouble) is merely a replication of the family disorganization that such a person regularly encounters. It seems as though these children internalize such dysfunction and release it through their behavior.

There are also numerous ways in which alcoholism can affect an alcoholic's spouse psychologically and socially. In some instances, spouses indulge in alcoholism along with their husbands or wives. As this tendency indicates, spouses have more of a substantial relationship with their alcoholic partner, since they were with him or her before the children were. As such, they can oftentimes produce a greater effect on the alcoholic and on the additional dynamics that this disease produces on the other family members. There are essentially three frequently occurring viewpoints of spouses of alcoholics. Two of them pertain to issues of control and competitiveness. The first of these two is the point-of-view that the spouse actually likes it when his or her partner is drinking, and is able to derive advantages from the disorganization that results. In certain instances the fact that there is a family member who drinks contributes to his or her feeling inadequate about his or herself. Such feelings of insufficiency on the part of that spouse may contribute to feelings of high self-esteem or sufficiency to the other spouse -- which is certainly dysfunctional and can create familial environments in which there are extreme highs and lows. The other perspective based on control that spouses take of their partner's alcoholism is that it is somehow related to a sense of competition between the two. A spouse can consider his or her ability to control his or her partner's drinking as a source of competition. Similarly, the partner who is the alcoholic can also view his or her drinking habits as a way of asserting control over his wife…[continue]

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