Psychological Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics

By KENNETH J. SHER, PH.D.

More than 20 years ago, researchers first noted that children of alcoholics (COA’s) appeared to be affected by a variety of problems over the course of their life span.

Such problems include;

fetal alcohol syndrome, which is first manifested in infancy;

emotional problems and hyperactivity in childhood;

emotional problems and conduct problems in adolescence; and

the development of alcoholism in adulthood.

Although much has been learned over the ensuing two decades, a number of controversial research areas remain. In particular, debate stems from the fact that despite a common interest in COA’s, clinically focused literature and research-focused literature have resulted in two distinct bodies of knowledge. This article reviews important research results, with emphasis on findings generated by the alcohol-research community. Attention also is given to examining the empirical validity of concepts that have been advanced by several influential clinicians from the COA field.

ALCOHOL HEALTH & RESEARCH WORLD, VOL. 21, NO. 3, 1997

The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult Children of Alcoholics at Home, at Work and in Love