Term Paper: Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents

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[. . .] In his Adult Children of Alcoholics, Steve Frisch, a mental health professional clinical psychologist, indicates the following as a statement from an adult child of alcoholic parents.

We have feelings of low self-esteem that cause us to judge ourselves and others without mercy. We cover up or compensate by trying to be perfect, take responsibility for others, attempt to control the outcome of unpredictable events, get angry when things don't go our way, or gossip instead of confronting an issue.

In peer relationships, some adult children of alcoholics try to become the consultant of problems. Others, on the other hand, try to hide their family's situations by not allowing friends to come over or visit in the house. Denial of problems often becomes the peer situation of adult children of alcoholic parents. Embarrassed by the real situation that happens in their home, they usually aim to pretend that nothing is wrong with their family and that they live a happy life. Constant circumstances of facing such instances sometimes lead to the inability of a child, up to his adult life, to face problems and use denial attitude as a scapegoat in crisis in life.

Among the similar experiences ACOAs share, the most common situation they face is the dilemma of witnessing miscommunications and fights of parents. This experience often becomes the most negative-causing and threatening situation, allowing ACOAs to feel and witness the gradual deformation of their families. Over time, the struggle of regularly witnessing disputes between the alcoholic parent and the other parent makes the ACOA feel ashamed of his family, which soon, becomes the reason for isolating himself from others. The family that lacks interaction and communication, eventually pushes an ACOA with sensitive personality to divert his needs for affection into trouble and misdeeds. Through this, the ACOA is able to receive attention from others, disregarding whether he caused trouble. Unfortunate to this situation is when the ACOA is not properly reprimanded. This leads the ACOA in situations with greater risk for delinquency. This causes him to commit more troubles, not just to others but sometimes even to himself.

In situations of intimate relationships, adult children of alcoholics who become alcoholics themselves often find partners who are also alcoholics or abusers of other substances. Studies reveal that this pattern is due to the aspect that adult child of alcoholic seeks companionship on people with the same crisis in life, who can live and go along with his lifestyle. In cases where an ACOA did not develop alcoholism, they instead face the feeling of desperately wanting to build and maintain a successful family. Studies suggest that this may be another defense mechanism of an ACOA considering the fact that he himself did not experience a functional family. Not wanting to happen the same familial crisis he experienced during his childhood, he becomes too cautious of his intimate and familial relationships. Such anxiety can soon lead an ACOA to face the situation of having more relationship problems within his family.

II

Behavior of Children With Alcoholic Parent(s)

Comparing the behavior of adult children with alcoholic parent to that of adult children with non-alcoholic parent, adult children of alcoholics present indications of unusual behavior and attitudes. Studies have shown that among the adolescents, common behavior and personality patterns appear such as the following.

The responsible but isolated behavior

This pattern demonstrates a child who assumes the responsibilities the alcoholic parent fails to execute for his family, such as taking care of the family's needs or taking care of siblings. Outside family matters, this type of behavior drives the child to become active and take leadership experiences. However, because of the roles the child pursues in his life, he is usually passive in terms of social relationships. This behavior teaches the child to mature in life earlier compared to those whose parents are non-alcoholic.

The adjusting behavior

This pattern demonstrates a child who can easily adapt to situations in life. The child develops a good sense of following instructions that, however, results to a weak sense of responsibility. Studies show that this behavior develops, despite of any parental failure to families due to vices such as alcoholism, from the child's respect to his parents. Such behavior is being applied by the child to others providing him the ability to follow directions but results to losing the ability of taking responsibilities.

Strong relationship to others outside the family

This pattern exhibits the closeness to others of an adolescent with alcoholic parent. The problems encountered within a family that are caused by alcoholism tend to tear a family apart. As a result, adolescents are emotionally separated from their families causing them to divert their attention, care, and company to others. This redirection of relationship is usually demonstrated to peers.

From the preceding child behaviors and effects of parental alcoholism arise a number of common disorders that are disruptive to the being of a child and may cause unwanted outcomes during development from childhood, to adolescent, and into adulthood. Aside from the environmental factor of being influenced with alcohol by an alcoholic parent, the disharmony within a family serves as an element in the development of disorders affecting a child's growth such as physical, psychological, and emotional disorders. The following are those cited in Alcohol Health. These are typically visible during adolescent period of a child in which he starts his social interactions with others. These disorders are found to hinder social relationships causing a child or an adult not to "come out of his shell" which is in contrast to what children of non-alcoholic parents normally undergo during adolescent years.

Conduct Disorders

Conduct disorder on adolescents is caused by the effects of parental alcoholism within a family such as parents' failure to look after their children, financial crisis caused by the inability of parents to support their family due to addiction in alcohol, or the domestic family relationship problems. The accumulation of such problems sometimes results to misconduct and rebellion of a child.

Substance Abuse

Studies have shown that exposure to excessive intake of alcohol by parents may influence a child in becoming alcoholic as he grows. Aside from alcohol, his view of other vices such as drug abuse may be similar as how he views alcohol. Studies also indicate that drug abuse is usually related to the effect and influence of parental alcoholism on a child.

Emotional Disorders

Stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the emotional disorders that result from parental alcoholism. Most children of alcoholics suffer from pressure of family problems, causing them to breakdown from their normal senses and regulation of the body. Due to pressure and stress, they sometimes develop abnormal emotions causing them to react on circumstances in improper ways.

Cognitive and Neuropsychological Functioning

Alcohol Health states that research have found that the intellectual ability of children of alcoholics is negatively affected. Their psychological functioning was found to be poor, such as in verbal ability and reasoning. This disorder, unfortunately, may impair their behavior and self-esteem.

The Medical Center of the Ohio State University further lists behavioral commonalities among adult children of alcoholic parents.

They do not know what "normal" is.

They have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

They lie when it would be as easy to tell the truth.

They judge themselves without mercy.

They have difficulty having fun.

They take themselves too seriously.

They have difficulty with intimate relationships.

They overreact to changes over which they have no control.

They constantly seek approval and affirmation.

They feel they are different from other people.

They are either excessively responsible or excessively irresponsible.

They are extremely loyal even when that loyalty is not deserved.

They are impulsive.

Alcoholism places many risks to the lives of children living with alcoholic parents. In the U.S., agencies that work for the cause of looking after the status of children of alcoholic parents lays extensive attention on aspects concerning children's stability. One important element, provided with research and studies for the improvement of welfare provision, is the adolescent period of children of alcoholics. Providing responsible and positive caring to children of alcoholics facilitate the process of disorder prevention and the process of helping a child cope from the unwanted consequences of parental alcoholism.

Statement of the Problem

The behavior patterns of children of alcoholics have been the focus of many studies concerning families with alcoholic parents. Identifying the cause and effects of living with alcoholic parents entails analysis on the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of both the alcoholic parents and the children of alcoholics. These are essential to know the depth of the effects of parental alcoholism on adult children specifically.

Previous studies on adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) revealed that there are common characteristics shared by ACOA. All of which are results of the dysfunctional families they live with due to parental alcoholism. Because of the similar circumstances, they experience from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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