Adult Children of Alcoholics movement

An argument against the Adult Children of Alcoholics movement: Many proponents of the ?Adult Children of Alcoholics? support group movement point to theories suggesting that large numbers of children raised where there is parental alcoholism have suffered psychological trauma. Indeed, just having a parent with an alcohol use disorder is suggested to be traumatic for the child. Yet are such conclusions justified?

One characteristic of human behavior is to engage in what is known as ?post-hoc reasoning?. This means that researchers look for commonalities in groups of people with a certain condition, say people who are depressed, and if a large percentage of those individuals say that they shared a common experience?such as having an alcoholic parent?the researchers often conclude that this experience must be the cause of the groups? depression.

However, it may be possible that both the parental alcoholism and the child?s subsequent development of a depression later in life might reflect the effects of the same gene?s influence that is expressed in different ways between generations. After all, the child inherited 50% of his or her genes from each parent. This biological explanation suddenly puts the impact of parental alcoholism on the child?s later growth in an entirely new light. If it is a genetic disorder, as is suggested here, then could self-help groups really assist in the treatment of this condition?


Further, many children who later grew up to become depressed never had a parent with an alcohol use disorder. Many proponents of the ?Adult Children of Alcoholics? (ACOA) movement point out that having a parent with an alcohol use disorder is just one of a wide range of abnormal conditions in which the child might be raised. Having a violent parent, or a parent who went on to develop schizophrenia, or being raised in a home where there is incest, all are ?dysfunctional? homes, it has been suggested, and thus the individual could benefit from the insights that the ACOA movement has to offer.


The writer of your text shared that as he was driving across the Midwest late one night and listening to a radio broadcast in which the author of a book on surviving rape was being interviewed. Listeners were invited to call with questions, and one caller who did so began by saying that she had been raped. Immediately, the author broke in and said ?you are a victim, and don?t let anybody tell you otherwise!? Perhaps this was true in one sense of the word. However, what if the caller wanted to say that she did not view herself as being a victim but as being a survivor of a rape experience, as having risen above the anger and fear to become a more self-sufficient and confident person? In that case, the author would immediately have discounted the caller?s perspective. This is the dilemma inherent in the ?Adult Children of Alcoholics? movement. If the adult believes that his or her childhood, while difficult, is part of the past and that he or she is facing the problems of adulthood now, is this denial, or a way of being realistic?



1. Do you believe that growing up in a home where there is a parent with an alcohol use disorder is the same as growing up in a home where a parent has a condition such as schizophrenia? Why or why not? Do you agree with the idea that all children raised in dysfunctional homes can benefit from being part of the ACOA?


2. One of the core concepts of the ?Adult Children of Alcoholics? philosophy is that no matter what the trauma, all suffering is equal. Do you believe that this statement is true?