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Children of Alcoholics

Family Dynamics And Developmental Influences, Conclusion

Children of Alcoholics (COAs) is a general term used to describe individuals with one or more alcoholic parents. Although the ramifications of living with an addicted, alcoholic parent are variable, nearly all children from alcoholic families are at risk for behavioral and emotional difficulties (Christensen and Bilenberg 2000), and live with scars—psychological or physical—as a result of parental alcoholism (Seixas and Youcha 1985). From prenatal influences leading to learning and memory problems (Coles and Platzman 1993) to vulnerabilities in behavioral control and aggression in adulthood ( Jacob and Windle 2000), a significant number of COAs exhibit psychological and/or interpersonal difficulties. In fact, COAs can be differentiated from nondistressed and psychiatric comparison groups in regard to such factors as personality characteristics, depressive symptomatology, and educational attainments, as well as patterns of alcohol and drug use ( Jacob et al. 1999).

Effects of parental alcoholism, then, unfortunately can lead to untoward psychological effects as well as difficulties with adult relationships. Leon I. Puttler, Robert A. Zucker, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, and C. Raymond Bingham (1998) noted that both male and female COAs are at risk for myriad difficulties. At the same time, developmental trajectories can differ widely, depending upon both the parent's alcoholism as well as individual resilience. As a result, psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, and counselors commonly consider an array of family dynamics when examining the effects of parental alcoholism.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & Parenthood