Children of Alcoholics
Statistics show that 20 percent of Americans have lived with one or more alcoholic parents while growing up or were raised in an environment of alcoholism. Other studies have shown that up to 76 million Americans have been exposed to alcoholism through their alcoholic parents. Because of the large number of Americans that are alcoholics, or have alcoholic parents, there are also many children of alcoholics in America.
Adult children of alcoholics often grew up in families characterized by abuse and violence. Many of these families are considered dysfunctional due to excessive amounts of conflicts and a lack of respect among the family members.
The treatment for the psychological problems and alcoholism of the children of alcoholics is a long process. Often, there are years of alcoholism related emotional trauma that must be dealt with through therapy. If the child is an alcoholic, he or she will have to be treated with some type of alcoholism rehabilitation program.
Adult Children of Alcoholics and the Dysfunctional Family
It is estimated that there are up to 20 million Americans that deal with alcoholism. The adult children of alcoholics are among those who have had to deal with alcoholism extensively since they were raised in households in which alcoholism was present. It is very common that the adult children of alcoholics were also raised in dysfunctional families.
Alcoholism affects a whole family, not just the alcoholic parents, and the resilience of the adult children of alcoholics will depend on the strength of a non-alcoholic parent. The adult children of alcoholics are much more likely to encounter psychological and social difficulties with two alcoholic parents, and are more prone to alcoholism as well.
A dysfunctional family is a family that is characterized by many interpersonal conflicts, a lack of empathy, tolerance of abuse, and in many cases there is a denial by one or more family members that there are problems within the family. Alcoholism may also be present in the family. Many families with one or two alcoholic parents become dysfunctional. Problems of alcoholism with one or more alcoholic parents are linked to increased marital and relationship problems.
Adult children of alcoholics that were raised in dysfunctional families or even “normal” families are more prone to experience interpersonal problems, alcoholism problems, and psychological problems. It is known that adult children of alcoholics have difficulties in defining what is considered “normal” behavior because of an extended exposure to several abnormal circumstances in their upbringing.
Many adult children of alcoholics also have problems with intimate relationships in several cases because of their exposure to relationship problems that their parents experienced. They have problems with trusting their partners because of a lack of trust in one or both of their parents.
Children of alcoholics are certainly affected in several ways by alcoholism in their families. Abuse is another unfortunate correlation with alcoholism in families. The children of alcoholics are often abused by their alcoholic parents, and alcoholism related abuse can lead to serious emotional difficulties.
Essentially, long-term adjustment for many adult children of alcoholics that were raised with dysfunctional families is difficult. There are communication and trust issues in many dysfunctional families that the adult children of alcoholics may carry with them long after they have left their home in which alcoholism was a problem.
In addition to these problems, adult children of alcoholics have to face issues of abandonment and the fear of the potential of alcoholism developing in their own lives. In many cases, adult children of alcoholics must attend alcoholism therapy in order to properly adjust to normal life after they have left a dysfunctional home.
Treatment for Children of Alcoholics and Adult Children of Alcoholics
Although the children of alcoholic parents may adjust well to various life circumstances, many of them have difficulties while living in their homes and after they have left their homes. The adult children of alcoholics may carry with them emotional difficulties and troubles with interpersonal relationships. However, psychological and medical advancements have allowed for a wide range of therapies and tools to treat alcoholism and other problems in both the children of alcoholics and the adult children of alcoholics.
Treatments for the children of alcoholics that are still living with their parents typically consists of supportive counseling and therapy. Many children of alcoholics may deal with emotional abuse that stems from their alcoholic parents. The therapy that is used to treat the children of alcoholics is also intended to prevent them from developing alcoholism. Disorders that are often found in children of alcoholics include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sometimes future alcoholism.
Adult children of alcoholics also may benefit from the treatment of alcoholism or other alcoholism related problems. The adult children of alcoholics must accept that they need help in order for treatment to begin, however, once treatment has proceeded, adult children of alcoholics can make very strong recoveries. One of the best treatments available for the adult children of alcoholics are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which are an effective form of group alcoholism therapy. This is often combined with alcoholism rehabilitation, extensive counseling and therapy.
Twelve-step alcoholism programs are another major treatment for adult children of alcoholics. These alcoholism treatment programs are designed to help individuals recover from addiction and are used to treat a wide range of problems related to alcoholism. The twelve-step process involves admission of one’s own alcoholism, belief that a higher power can help them through their difficulties, the assistance of an experienced member to guide them through recovery, making changes to habits, creating new rules of conduct for living, and finally going on to help others after recovery has been made from alcoholism.
Effects of Alcoholism and the Dysfunctional Family on Children
There are over one million reported cases of child abuse in the United States, and 81% of those cases are related to alcoholism or alcoholic parents. Homes in which abuse or emotional neglect occur are considered dysfunctional. The children of alcoholic parents are very strongly affected by alcoholism, and a dysfunctional family creates significant hurdles to their upbringing and development. However, alcoholic parents that are struggling with alcoholism should be aware of the availability of many types of treatment and therapy that can greatly assist their children with coping with their alcoholic parents.
Children of alcoholics may suffer from difficulties in developing strong interpersonal relationships. This results from the lack of trust in one or both of their own parents. These individuals often have low self-esteem due to being neglected. Children of alcoholics often feel guilt and may blame themselves for their parent’s alcoholism, especially when there is verbal and emotional abuse in the household.
Children of alcoholic parents are more likely to develop alcoholism themselves later in life. Thus, it is important that they are treated for at a young age to help prevent future alcoholism. Treatments include cognitive behavior therapy (a form of psychotherapy) and other types of counseling. Group therapy and family therapy are also effective treatments for the children of alcoholics. Alateen is a support group for the children of alcoholics that teaches coping with alcoholism, and it is a popular form of group therapy.
Learning disabilities are more common among the children of alcoholics compared to their peers. The children of alcoholics may require the help of tutors and other learning specialists to be successful in school. The difficulties of the children of alcoholics with learning partially stem from an inability to focus due to the distractions of the alcoholism in their home.
In extreme cases of alcoholism in the home, the children of alcoholics are sometimes unable to complete their work due to constant fighting, abuse, and chaos in their homes. This chaotic environment that alcoholism creates can be very detrimental to the proper educational development of the children of alcoholics.
The children of alcoholics may have to go through extensive therapy sessions in order to be able to function at school. The children of alcoholics may perform lower on verbal tests, however this should never be interpreted as an intellectual impairment, but rather the effect of being raised in an environment in which alcoholism creates difficulties for the children of alcoholics to express themselves.