Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents Compared With Adult Children of Non-Alcoholic Parents Term Paper

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Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents Compared with Adult Children of Non-Alcoholic Parents

I Situations Faced by Children of Alcoholic Parent(s)

II Behavior of Children with Alcoholic Parent(s)

II Hypothesis #2

I The Possibility of Developing Alcoholism on ACOA's

II ACOA's have Lower Self-Esteem Compared to Non-ACOA's

Comparing the Differences Between ACOAs and Non-ACOAs in Terms of Social and Intimate Relationships

IV Protective Factors For Resiliency

I Participants

II Instruments

Annotated Bibliography

Children of Alcoholics Screening Test

Are You an Alcoholic?

Intimate Bond Measure

Emotional and Social Loneliness Scale

Self-Esteem Scale

The family is one of the most important institutions in our society today. It is from our family where we are able to develop ourselves and start the journeys we take in life. Usually, the upbringing of each family member depends on the psychological nature of the other members who are able to provide influence or may have cause effects to the other members. Specific to this is the behavioral nature of the parents.

Among the problems that present threats in the stability of a family is alcoholism. Alcoholism by a member of a family subjects diverse effects on the lives of the other members. Frequently, alcoholism is the root cause of various dilemmas a family encounters. These dilemmas include misunderstandings and miscommunications, rebellion by other family members, problems on social relationships, and personal emotional problems.

This study aims to provide information and analysis on the subject of alcoholism within families, or what we call parental alcoholism. The study will focus on the effects and consequences of alcoholic parents to adult children. To provide a basis of this study, a comparison and analysis of adult children with alcoholic parents and those with non-alcoholic parents is a major part of this study. Further, to show and provide data for analysis, the result of a survey conducted on college students will be discussed.

Parental alcoholism is a problem not specific to a particular society. It is a problem being faced by many families worldwide. The different cultures where parental alcoholism exists may have diverse effects. To present a general view on the consequences of parental alcoholism, this study also includes multicultural aspects of the subject.

Adult children of alcoholics or ACOAs have been the subject of many research and studies, mainly on the general issue of Alcoholism. Lately, it is not only the alcoholic individual that was given with attention in the many studies and researches of medical and psychological practice. Hence, those that surrounds the alcoholic is provided with more attention, in the purpose and objective of analyzing the effects alcoholism may cause to others. Colina, Reilley, and Langmeyer, from their study entitled Adult Children of Alcoholics and the Need for Interpersonal Control, indicates that Adult children of alcoholics (ACAs), or individuals eighteen years old and older who grew up in a family containing one or more alcoholic parents, have received a great deal of attention in recent years. In fact, it is estimated that 28 million Americans are ACAs (Cermark & Rosenfield, 1987).

As with many research and studies on adult children of alcoholics, the author of this study desires to contribute in the establishment of data and knowledge that may further the analysis to provide solution on the effects of parental alcoholism on adult children.

Background of the Study

What is Alcoholism? Alcoholism is an illness characterized by habitual and excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. Lack of self-control, lack of limitation in alcohol intake, and abuse of alcoholic beverages causes alcoholism. Genetic hereditary and problems in life are two common factors that contribute to the development of alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a family-breaking element that causes quite a percentage of children who suffer from living with alcoholic parents. NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) states an estimate, based on Russell's Children of Alcoholics A Review of the Literature, of the number of children in the U.S. who live with alcoholic parent(s).

An estimated 6.6 million children under the age of 18 years live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.

In U.K., according to Richard Velleman in his The Children of Problem Drinking Parents, survey shows that 2 million adults are addicted to excessive drinking. For every adult of the survey result, on the other hand, is equivalent to one child who is affected by the consequences of alcoholism.

Alcoholism can be a hereditary illness. According to statistics and research, children of alcoholic parents
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are more likely to become alcoholic themselves, or get involve in other addictions such as drug abuse, during their adult life. Aside from the problems alcoholism causes within a family, its effect covers numbers of individual and personal problems to family members. This includes psychological and emotional difficulties in individuals who are vulnerable to issues the society imparts concerning alcoholism.

The effect of alcoholism is most visible in the adolescence period of a child with alcoholic parents. This is due to the fact that the period of adolescence is where the social ability of a child to interact and relate with others in a mature manner starts to develop. Also, it is the period where the viewpoint and attitude of a child towards the nature of other people and his environment starts to establish.

Most of the research and studies that were conducted to analyze the cause and effects of parental alcoholism employ adult children as the subject of studies. From the diverse analysis that were completed by psychologists and mental health professionals, results have shown that adult children of alcoholics are at high risk of experiencing physical, psychological, and emotional problems. Most serious to these problems are the psychological and emotional effects that may live in an adult child's memory for a lifetime. Such types of problems are found to be destructive and disturbing in the growth and development process of a child.

While diverse studies and research commit in the analysis of the effects of parental alcoholism, there are still many aspects that need to be considered in examining the consequences of being raised in an alcoholic environment. Many ACOAs share similar experiences, hence they also share similar behaviors and personalities. Studies are being conducted on ACOAs and non-ACOAs to determine the impact of parental alcoholism. Non-ACOAs are used as the basis of analysis and general point of references of normal behavioral patterns. Although some indicates differences between the two groups, some on the other hand suggests non-dependency of psychological and behavioral elements from parental alcoholism.

Further, organizations that emphasize in the study and assistance to ACOAs have been established worldwide. Such institutes provide various programs and protection to children and adult children of alcoholics. While advocating the principle of imparting assistance to ACOAs, they also engaged in the commitment of contributing to the medical disciplines on analysis of the diverse effects and impact of being raised in an alcoholic environment. One organization that devotes time to ACOAs is the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA). From a journal of the COA Organization, the following is the dictum of ACOA institutes.

No child of alcoholic should grow up in isolation and without support.

NACoA is a collaboration of various organizations advocating ACOAs. It is supported and includes private and federal organizations.


Situations Faced by Children of Alcoholic Parent(s) home with alcoholic parents often lacks the necessary guidance and support that serve as the building blocks of a successful family. It is the responsibility of the parents to establish such building blocks. However, for a home that shelters a family with alcoholic parents, parental alcoholism becomes a destroying element.

The consequences of parental alcoholism may provide a long-term effect on adult children, especially to those who witness parental alcoholism from their childhood. Often, the behavior patterns they demonstrate as defense mechanisms during childhood are retained in their adult lives. Early exposure to parental alcoholism combined with its effects and consequences places more risk to children of becoming vulnerable in terms of the situations they may face from childhood to adult years.

Children of alcoholics often face situations that discriminate their beings. Most of the time, however, the problems they encounter are results of their own negative feelings and views on themselves. They become judgeful of themselves. They usually tend to be paranoid about how others see them and how others feel about them of being in an unstable family undergoing problems caused by parental alcoholism. Children of alcoholics are inclined to compare themselves from children of non-alcoholics. Because of their low self-esteem, their comparison to children of non-alcoholics often results to an increase of their own negative views and feelings of themselves. Consequently, they become more passive in social relationships.

In situations such as in school, there are adult children of alcoholics who try to be responsible and perfect in their school performance. Research and studies show that this behavior is use by adult children as their defense mechanism against how others may see them as a part of a family of alcoholic parents. They often try to seek positive…

Sources Used in Documents:


Velleman, R. (2002). The Children of Problem Drinking Parents.

Institute of Health & Medicine, University of Bath.

1996). Children of Alcoholics. Alcohol Health.

Common Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents.

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