Emotional Experience and Consequences of Growing Up in a Family with Alcoholism in Adult Children of Alcoholics




Słowa kluczowe:

Alcoholism, family, addiction, adult children of alcoholics, emotional regulation


Adult children of alcoholics are adults who spent a part of, or their whole childhood in a dysfunctional family, where the biggest problem was alcohol addiction in one or both parents. In families with parental alcoholism, there is usually a lot of dysfunction in interpersonal relationships and in the upbringing of the children, which does not provide a healthy and optimal developmental environment for the child. There is often physical and psychological violence, and other forms of abuse and neglect that children perceive as traumatic. All this leaves the child with severe consequences, which they also struggle with in adulthood. Unresolved and traumatic childhood content often remains repressed and unprocessed and helps shape one’s functioning in adulthood, which is frequently emotionally and socially immature. Adult children of alcoholics often have problems in experiencing and regulating their emotions, as they had to carry many emotional burdens in a dysfunctional family, while they had no real opportunity for the healthy development of emotional regulation. The article will present research on the emotional experience of children with their alcoholic parents and how they recognize related consequences in their adult lives. Using the content analysis method, we analyzed 71 anonymous forum posts on the counselling forum on the topic “Adult children of alcoholics.” The directed approach to content analysis was used to validate forum posts by people who described their childhood experiences with an alcoholic parent. We identified parts of the content that fell into two predetermined categories: emotional experience in childhood with an alcoholic parent and the experience of its consequences in adulthood. The results showed that the adult children of alcoholics mostly experienced severe feelings of fear, shame, sadness and disgust with their alcoholic parents in their childhood, and that these feelings have remained unprocessed. In adulthood, they struggle with negative consequences in the personal sphere (e.g. poor self-esteem, inferiority, anxiety, depression), in interpersonal relationships (e.g. problems in partnerships, mistrust, social phobia, parental stress, complicated relationships with parents) and in everyday functioning (e.g. coping with one’s own addiction, dysfunctional behavioural patterns), but they also recognize that because of this experience they have managed to lay the foundations of their lives differently and better. The results confirm that children are hidden victims of parental alcoholism and justify the need for psychosocial and therapeutic support even in their adulthood.


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