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Parental Alcoholism As A Determinant Of Drinking Styles In Their Adult Children

3866 words - 15 pages

A ReviewRunning head: PARENTAL ALCOHOLISM AS A DETERMINANT OFDRINKINGParental Alcoholism as a Determinant ofDrinking Styles in Their Adult Children: A reviewConsiderable research has been conducted in recent years onthe personality characteristics of adult and adolescent childrenof alcoholics ( Berkowitz & Perkins, 1988; Seefeldt & Lyon,1992). In order for us to examine some of the literatureconcerning the drinking patterns of adult children, we willbegin by examining other defining traits that are seen asgenerally characteristic of adult children of alcoholics. Adultchildren will henceforth be referred to as ACOA'S.An important factor in addressing any issue related toACOA's is a definition of alcoholism (Shuckit, 1987). TheA.P.A. (1987) in its definition of alcoholism requires symptomssuch as heavy drinking over a time, the inability to stopdrinking at will, major life problems, tolerance to drinking,impaired social or occupational functioning, and withdrawalsymptoms upon quitting use. Shuckit points to the fact thatalcoholism has been defined as genetic in nature by manystudies. This viewpoint allows us to begin a review of theoffspring of alcoholics and their possible geneticpredisposition to alcoholism. Another consideration in thediscussion of children of alcoholics and their tendencies towardalcoholism isthe environmental factors involved in growing up in analcoholic home. These environmental factors have been moredifficult to research and, as a result, have been documentedless frequently than heredity and genetics. Although thisreview will focus primarily on the possible biological basis forthe familial transmission of alcoholism, the environmentalfactors will also be examined. For our purposes, we will define'environmental' as being any external influence encountered bythe children of alcoholics, especially the attitudes andbehaviors of the alcoholic parents.Early research, such as that of Woititz (1983) indicatesthat children of alcoholics are a clearly distinguishablesubgroup with well-defined characteristics. These assumptionsare based primarily on clinical observation during ACOAtreatment. Research has recently shed doubt on the findings ofWoititz and other theorists who delineate specific definingcharacteristics of children of alcoholics. The studies byBerkowitz & Perkins (1988) and Seefeldt & Lyon (1992) bothindicated that children of alcoholics are not definable by theirspecific negative set of response styles or personalitycharacteristics. In other words, COA's are not a homogeneousgroup. Most early research described ACOA's as individuals whohave developed certain maladaptive behaviors and personalitytraits to compensate for extreme dysfunction within the familysystem. Much of the recent research has contradicted the workof Woititz (1983) and has brought the question of 'what trulydefines an ACOA?' to the forefront. My goal in the currentdiscussion will be to present some of the past and presentresearch on one...

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