Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

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Written or medically reviewed by a board-certified physician. See's Medical Review Policy.

Updated July 31, 2015.

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.


Common Characteristics Outlined

As long as things are going smoothly, we're fine.

However, when we 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 in 1983 by Dr. Janet G. Woititz.

You may recognize some of them.


Adult Children:

    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.

    You might want to read Dr. Jan's book Adult Children of Alcoholics for more detailed descriptions. You might take the Adult Children Screening Quiz to get an indication of how much you may have been affected by growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home.

    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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