Alcoholism is a disease that affects not only the addicted person, but his/her family as well. Many children grow up in homes where one or both parents are alcoholics or abuse alcohol. Sometimes children of alcoholics are also physically, sexually, and emotionally abused. But even if no overt abuse takes place, the child growing up in an alcoholic family suffers damage.

Adult Children of Alcoholics often experience some of the following:

  • they also abuse alcohol or have problems with alcohol use
  • problems with interpersonal relationships
  • trouble with anger management
  • low self-esteem
  • inability to trust
  • feelings of guilt
  • depression

Facts and Figures for Children of Alcoholics:

  • Alcoholics are more likely than nonalcoholics to have an alcoholic father, mother, sibling, or other relative. In addition, children of alcoholics (COAs) are more likely than non-COAs to marry into families in which alcoholism is prevalent.
  • Roughly 1 in 8 American adults is alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol.
  • It is estimated that there are 28.6 million COAs in the U.S.; 6.6 million are under the age of 18.
  • COAs are 2 to 4 times more likely than non-COAs to develop alcoholism.
  • Physiological and environmental factors appear to place COAs at greater risk of becoming alcoholic.
  • COAs are at increased risk for other drug use, especially as they approach late adolescence.
  • COAs often believe that they will be failures even if they do well academically. They do not see themselves as successful.

Statistics from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

 If you identify some of the above issues as relating to you, it might help to talk to someone. The Counseling Center provides free and confidential assistance, call ext. 4292 for an appointment.

 Also, the following groups are available in Cedar Rapids:

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics - a support group for adult children of alcohol-addicted parents to deal with issues from their childhood. Call 365-5955 for information on daily groups. No cost.
  • Al-Anon - a 12-step support group for family and friends of an alcohol-addicted person. Call 365-5955 for information on daily groups. No cost.
  • Alateen - for support of teenagers who are coping with family members and friends who are alcohol-addicted. Call 365-5955 for information on daily groups. No cost.

Recommended Readings

Reading about COA issues can also be helpful. The following contains a listing of resources that might be of help.

  • ACOA Online has some great information and links regarding alcohol issues, including for young adults. A good site for ACOAs and also for others interested in alcohol and other issues.

We also recommend the following books. Some of these are available for check-out in the Cole Library.

Substance Abuse:

  • "Intervention: How to Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help." A step-by-step guide for families and friends of chemically dependent persons. Author: Vernon E. Johnson, D.D. Johnson Institute Books, 1986.
  • "The Addictive Personality: Roots, Rituals and Recovery." Going beyond the definition that limits addiction to the realm of alcohol and other drugs, The Addictive Personality uncovers the common denominators of all addictions and how, over time, an addictive personality develops. Author: Craig Nakken; Hazelden Books, 1988.
  • "When Your Parent Drinks Too Much: A Book for Teenagers." A resource for understanding alcoholism, why you can't cure your parent's drinking problem, how you can 'detach' from the disease to improve your own life, how to handle the shame and guilt, and where to go for help. Author: Eric Ryerson. Facts on File Publications, 1985.


  • "Adult Children of Alcoholics." A best seller that addresses the effects of family addiction on the adult child's past and present and how he or she can break the cycle. Author: Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D. Health Communications, Inc. 1983.
  • "A Workbook for Healing: Adult Children of Alcoholics." A self-paced workbook for healing that offers specific exercises on how to evaluate childhood experiences with adult awareness, resolve lingering anger, sadness and pain, forgive the alcoholic parent in your past, and use affirmations to achieve peace of mind. Author: Patty McConnell. Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.
  • "Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics." Are women who were raised in alcoholic families different from women raised in non-alcoholic families? This book brings together the thoughts, ideas and feelings of more than 1200 women as they examine the effects of family addiction on their adult lives. Author: Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D. Health Communications, Inc. 1989.
  • "Co-Dependence: Misunderstood, Mistreated." An exploration of our view and understanding of co-dependence that goes beyond close relationships with a chemically dependent person to include troubled and unhealthy relationships in general. Author: Anne Wilson Schaef. Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986.