Posted by: RealisticRecovery | May 6, 2009

More Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

here’s an article found over at

Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Some Common Characteristics
By Buddy T,

Most of us who grew up in families affected by the disease of alcoholism never did really grow up in many ways.

Sure, we grew up physically — but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually many of us are still stuck back there in early childhood. We never learned a “normal” way of thinking, feeling or reacting.

Think about it. We were raised by people who never grew up themselves. We had no “normal” example to follow. How were we supposed to learn how healthy families related to each other? We sure didn’t have any experience with it!

Then we grew to adulthood ourselves, got married, and raised children who likewise had no clue as to how healthy and functional families were supposed to operate. How were we supposed to know how to be good parents? We’d never seen one in action! The cycle continues.

Wait a minute, Buddy, I just don’t buy into all that psycho-babble about that inner-child stuff. After all I’m a highly functional person, highly skilled and a productive member of society. I’m my own person and I’m an adult!

Okay, then why do we spend so much time acting like children?

As long as things are going smoothly, we’re fine. But let us experience conflict, controversy, or crises and we respond with less-than-adult-like reactions.

Over the years, those who have studied the “adult child” phenomenon have compiled a list of common characteristics which many people who grew up in dysfunctional homes seem to share. The following characteristics were developed by Dr. Janet G. Woititz.

Adult Children of Alcoholics was originally written with only children of alcoholics in mind. Since its first publication, we have learned that the material discusses applies to other types of dysfunctional families as well. If you did not grow up with alcoholism but lived, for example, with other compulsive behaviors such as gambling, drug abuse or overeating, or you experienced chronic illness or profound religious attitudes, or you were adopted, lived in foster care or another potentially dysfunctional systems, you may find that you identify with the characteristics described here. It appears that much of what is true for the children of alcoholics is also true for others and that this understanding can help reduce the isolation of countless persons who also thought they were “different” because of their life experience.”Janet G. Woititz – Adult Children of Alcoholics – The Expanded Edition

You may recognize some of them.

Adult Children:

…guess at what normal is.

…have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.

…lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

…judge themselves without mercy.

…have difficulty having fun.

…take themselves very seriously.

…have difficulty with intimate relationships.

…overreact to changes over which they have no control.

…constantly seek approval and affirmation.

…feel that they are different from other people.

…are either super responsible or super irresponsible.

…are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.

…tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.

These characteristics are, of course, general in nature and do not apply to everyone. Some may apply and others not. And there are still other characteristics which are not on this list. But if any of these sound all too familiar, you may benefit by learning more about the phenomenon.

If you would like to learn more about support group programs for those who grew up in alcoholic homes, check the resources from Al-Anon Family Groups or the Adult Children of Alcoholics organization.


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