Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Alcoholism is a family disease that affects not only the person with addiction but everyone in that person’s inner circle. At home things may be chaotic, disorderly and dysfunctional but may also branch into severe abuse. Children raised in homes with this type of rancor often exhibit behaviors based on traumatic experiences. Learn more about the characteristics that shape children who grow into adults of parents with alcoholism.

Tracing Family Origins

Researchers and therapists developed resources over the years based on studies of the ‘adult child’ phenomenon. Adult children of alcoholics often share personality traits and characteristics in common with family members as a result of alcoholism. Learn about some of the traits and the impact it has on kids:

Concern for others

Growing up in a home with alcoholism often creates the need for a child to take on parental responsibility and roles. Role reversal can carry into adult life and adult kids often put others’ needs before their own.

Difficulty completing projects

Adult children of alcoholics may find it difficult to finish what is started. Surviving chaos often trumps learning practical problem solving skills including management of goals and creating opportunity.


When things go pear shaped in the family, children often take blame for parents’ behavior. As adults, it is difficult to move forward from mistakes and, when things go right, it is dismissed as odd luck or happenstance.

Approval seeking behavior

Self-worth is often derived from others and seeking approval is one way to get that for children growing up in homes with alcoholism. Reward and approval are often given erratically (if ever). Adults who experience this as kids constantly find the need to people-please and seek approval of others.

Rescuing others from danger

Adult children of alcoholics often become ones themselves later on, marry one or possibly both. It is not uncommon for adult children to find relationships with people in which the other needs rescuing, may become compulsive or suffer from other forms of mental health issues or addiction.

Building Resiliency

As with anything in life, it is possible to make changes once the challenges are brought to light. The above tendencies can bring difficult circumstances into a person’s life but it can also be tapped into as a powerful resource for personal growth and transformation. Recovery and support groups provide a sense of community paired with a sense of belonging. Working through tough emotional situations from the past with others who are working towards the same can be a powerful opportunity for change.

Some traits of resiliency that can be built upon following a childhood around alcoholism and addiction include:

  • Loyalty directed into healthy relationships (away from codependency)
  • Personal responsibility for own actions which contributes to an ability to succeed
  • Intuitive senses honed into positive channels
  • Greater empathy, caring and compassion to understand the plight of others without crossing personal boundaries

The more a person focuses on intentional growth, the more an individual can learn to manage the experiences of childhood better and become more resilient in life. Recovery is possible for those who take ownership and decide to create positive change.

The Villa provides a safe space to grow, learn and recover. If you or a loved one struggle with addiction to alcohol or other substances, it is not too late to embrace the power of personal transformation and growth. Call us to find out how we can assist you on getting back on the path you desire.