Adult Children Of Alcoholics

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Adult Children Of Alcoholics

Adult Children Of Alcoholics

While most persons recognize that alcohol and drug addictions are diseases, too few recognize them as “family diseases” (Al-Anon Family Groups, 2000). Addictions of family members are being understood today as family system problems rather than as individual problems. Alcohol and drug use have been found to have an intergenerational pattern. Abusive drinking in young adults has been found to be influenced by dysfunction in the family of origin (Fischer & Wampler, 1994). Steinglass and associates (1987) explained how alcoholism is a family systems problem when they examined the family system of the alcoholic. (BURK 2000)

In The Alcoholic Family, they clearly demonstrated the role that alcohol plays in reducing tension in the family and maintaining homeostasis (albeit, short-lived). Their research charts the developmental course of alcohol abuse in the family and explains the role that other family members play as co-dependents or enablers of the problem drinker. The 10-year study upon which The Alcoholic Family was based challenges many of the commonly held notions about alcoholism and proposes a family systems approach for treating alcoholism. (DAWSON 2002)

In the latter part of the 20th century, a number of adults stepped forward to claim that they were suffering from emotional dysfunctions that could be traced in large part to the impact of their parents' alcoholism. These individuals came to be known as “adult children” of alcoholics (ACOA). At the height of this movement, the number of adult children of alcoholics (or ACOA) in this country was thought to range from 22 million to 34 million adults. Although the therapeutic focus has since shifted away from the ACOA model, treatment professionals and lay persons alike still hear the occasional hint that the ACOA movement is still alive. There was never a single definition of the “adult child,” but Fisher (2002) suggested that the term adult children of alcoholics “carries a double meaning: an adult who is trapped in the fears and reactions of a child, and the child who was forced to be an adult without going through the natural stages that result in a healthy adult” (p. 8). (FISHER 2002)

Proponents of the ACOA model suggested that the alcoholic home was dysfunctional and that children raised in such a home were emotionally scarred for life. Because of the parent's abusive drinking, these children would grow into adults who would

Have to “guess” at what normal adult behavior is.

Have trouble in intimate relationships.

Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

Have a tendency to lie in situations when it is just as easy to tell the truth.

Often be unable relax, but always be ready to judge themselves harshly and feel the need to always keep busy.

Tend not to feel comfortable with themselves and constantly seek affirmation from significant others.

Try to avoid conflict situations or handle them poorly.

Be loyal to others, even when that person has abused them or failed to respect their loyalty. (FULTON 09)

The “adult child” might also have a tendency to self-sabotage, ...
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