adult children of alcoholics

researchers at the boston university school of social work found that while parental alcoholism can serve as an indicator of long-term harm to children, contrary to common beliefs it is not a direct cause.

“the study shows that a positive family environment may be able to overcome very negative childhood experiences.” said lead author margaret griffin.

the study found that women were particularly strongly affected. when they had alcoholic parents, they had more negative adult outcomes than women without alcoholic parents.

however, parental alcoholism alone did not directly contribute to these troubles. instead, the effect of having alcoholic parents was indirect, due to the increased likelihood of childhood stresses such as sexual abuse, the lack of a confidant, poor family communication, and family conflict and the decreased likelihood of childhood resources including family cohesion and expressiveness.

in fact, negative adult outcomes such as alcohol problems, depressed mood and poor social adjustment and life satisfaction could be seen equally in women without alcoholic parents who were exposed to the childhood stresses examined. these childhood stresses and lack of resources, then, were the pivotal influences on negative adult adjustment, regardless of the parent’s status as an alcoholic or nonalcoholic.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

20 thoughts on “adult children of alcoholics

  1. amy eden

    Hello, Isabella,

    This is interesting information. When I spoke to psychologist and author Stephanie Brown this spring for an article for my blog she felt that both nature and nuture are both powerful factors in whether or not one becomes an alcoholic after growing up in an alcoholic home (similar vein to the report you mention).

    Do you know if the report you mention is available to the public?

    Thanks –
    amy eden

  2. Renee Rigdon

    Thank you for sharing this study. I grew up with an alcoholic mother, but a loving and supportive father who was always there for me, as well as a close-knit extended family. Because of this, I have generally been very happy with my childhood and my life since childhood. Of course I was affected, but not as greatly as I could have been had it not been for all the wonderful people in my life. I have had therapists that absolutely refused to believe I saw the blessing in my mother’s alcoholism. If I ever run across another one, I’ll have to show them this study.

  3. isabella mori

    amy, thanks for your interest. i, too, believe very strongly that there nature and nurture “collaborate” all the time. in certain situations, one seems to be stronger than the other, but it’s never clear cut.

    if you’re interested in the article, the best thing is to contact the author. if you follow the link, you should be able to do that – if you have a problem, let me know. (you can also get the article directly from the journal but that’s more complicated and/or more expensive).

    renee, i know what you mean with therapists insisting that you follow a certain theory. that can be annoying at best and traumatizing at worst. our experiences are so unique – we’re rarely textbook cases!

  4. Goulet

    I have seen so many lives wasted from the abuse of drugs that it breaks my heart to see so many young people use drugs. I have not only tried drugs I have seen so many people that I have known destroyed their lives because of drug addiction.Alcoholism Search Engine provides detailed information on alcohol, alcohol rehab, and alcohol treatment centers.It helped me a lot ,I think it may help you too

  5. Vaun

    Hi… I don’t know if you can help me, but I was wondering if you would have any idea about how to find an ACA focused therapist in Los Angeles. Any help would be appreciated.



  6. Graham (Want to kick Alcoholism) Timson

    Alcohol addiction is not a new phenomenon or trend in our modern society, people have been involved in studying about it from a long time. However, it is comforting to know that like me, there are several others out there who are willing to help addicts come out of their wasted lives.

  7. Denny Soinski

    Due to the fact that parental alcoholism is so closely interrelated with family conflict, poor family communication, the lack of a confidant, sex abuse, and the lack of family expressiveness and cohesion, it makes sense that parental alcoholism is not a direct cause of long-term harm to children.

    Perhaps the main point, however, is this: any one or more of the above listed “childhood stresses” can clearly influence long-term harm to children. As a result, any families that exhibit any of the above “childhood stresses” would be prime candidates for family counseling.

    In any event, thank you for the informative and relevant article!

  8. C-P

    The thing with these studies is that you’ll read one saying something the one week – and another by a different set of researchers saying the exact opposite the next week.

    The fact is, alcoholism and drug addiction are extremely complex illnesses, with multiple causes. There is however enough scientific evidence to suggest that genetics is one of the primary causes of addiction. So having an alcoholic parent, puts you at greater risk. My mother was an alcoholic and having subsequently suffered my own addictions, I know that the trauma of watching her fight her alcoholism in my early years, played a big part in my own subsequent struggles.

    Had she already been in permanent recovery and had my family environment been loving and supportive in my early years, it may have meant it less likely I too went down the addiction route, but we’ll never know for sure.

    Experiencing any kind of childhood trauma however – whether it be an having an alcoholic parent, losing a loved one, being abused etc – do increase your risk from suffering from anything from alcoholism to addiction to depression to anxiety.

  9. raj

    Parental alcoholism alone does not directly contribute to the troubles of children. Instead, the society also acts indifferently thus increasing the likelihood of childhood stresses and sexual abuse. There should be more childhood resources for their rehabilitation.

    Alcoholism Information

  10. Amber

    Hi i’m fifteen years old and my mother is a very severe alcoholic. I have to say, when your silly articles say that the alcoholic parent does not directly affect the child, they’re wrong. My mother’s addiction controls my every thought, action, every dream at night is a nightmare. The constant fear of losing my mother to her addiction is suffocating. My mother was a phenominal mother, i was adopted along with my twin sister when we were babies, and she’s been extraordinary until she developed this disease. She is not even the same person anymore. She lies, steals, harms herself. I don’t understand how someone could write that their addiction doesn’t directly affect the child? The worst thing is she refuses to get help and claims she’ll kill herself before going to detox/rehab.

  11. isabella mori

    hi amber

    i can see how you found reading this disturbing. your experience directly contradicts what this article says.

    can i put this in context for you? first of all, i am just reporting on the article. i didn’t do the research myself, or even write the full article – just a report on it.

    second, i think the word “directly” is used more in a scientific sense, not exactly the way we use it in everyday language. she drinks, she lies, she turns your life upside down – how can that NOT be a direct effect? what this article says, i believe, is that it is the things you talk about – the lying, stealing, self harm, etc. (there are probably a few more things) that hurt you so much, not the drinking itself.

    amber, there are two organizations that extend a bit of assistance to people in your situation. they are alanon – a group of people who are living with alcoholics, or who have been living with them; and alateen, which is the younger people’s version of it. there is probably one near you.

    good luck, and i’m really sorry that this upset you.
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..speaking the truth =-.

  12. Marian Rockwood

    I grew up with an arrogant, self rightous alcoholic mother who loved herself and her gin more than her own children. May she rot in hell… P.S. They don’t serve gin in hell! LOL

  13. Amber

    Hey, i’m back. I would just like to update that my mother has now left korea and has been undergoing an enormous amount of hands-on treatment for the last 5 months back in America. Even though we had to force her into treatment, she has made a 360, and is significantly growing stronger and stronger each day. I feel sorry for Marian, the fact that she has so much built up anger for her mother and hopes that she spends eternity in agony breaks my heart. I’ll surely be praying for your mother and for yourself, that you’ll both find the Lord.


  14. Vanessa

    Hi everyone,

    I grew up with an alcoholic father. I don’t feel like I had a bad childhood, but now as an adult I have been feeling alot of distress with alcohol. I’m 24 and have always been a super responsible person. I don’t drink even a sip. Recently, I find myself always avoiding social settings, because I don’t to be around alcohol. I feel major anxiety when I hear people talking about how good all these drinks are. I feel like I am becoming less social as time passes by. I used to say I didn’t want to be like everyone else, but now I’m starting to realize that I am just terrified. I get very upset over one beer that my partner consumes. I know this isn’t normal and I feel like its getting worst. Isabella, What do you think? I feel like this new fear is consuming my life. Where do I go from here.


  15. Pingback: Relapse Prevention: Common Causes Of Drug And Alcohol Relapse In The Phases Of Recovery | Addiction Recovery Basics

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