Children of alcoholics (COAs) have been described as both vulnerable and resilient. Although identified as at-risk for mental and physical health problems, chemical dependency, and child abuse and neglect, many go on to lead successful lives.
OBJECTIVE: The relationship between COA status and various adolescent risk behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse and sexual precocity, was assessed by addressing the following research question: Could parental alcoholism be a risk factor for teens engaging in problem behaviors?
RESULTS: Adolescent COAs scored significantly lower on all psychosocial factors of family/personal strengths and school bonding and significantly higher on all factors of at-risk temperament, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors than non-COAs.
CONCLUSIONS: Adolescent COAs are at risk for depression, suicide, eating disorders, chemical dependency, and teen pregnancy. It has been proposed that mental health professionals teach core resiliency factors to promote healthy behaviors for this vulnerable population.
Children of addicted parents are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers because of both genetic and family environment factors.
Twenty-two percent of those studied identified themselves as a child of an alcoholic. This is consistent with current estimates of children of parental period alcoholics, which is calculated to be 22%. In another study among 595 African American boys age 13 to 17 years, identified that 23% of the participating teens were COAs. The National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) estimates that there are 11 million COAs under 18 years of age.
COAs scored lower on psychosocial factors;
- Family cohesion
- Education and school bonding
- Family adaptability
COAs scored higher on risk factors;
- Negative temperament
- Negative self directed feelings, thoughts and behaviours
- Drug and alcohol use
- Sexual behaviours
COAs scored higher on negative self directed feelings, thoughts and behaviours
- Depression and hopelessness
- Takes physical risks
- Feels excited doing risky things
- Thought of suicide in last year
- Tried suicide in last year