Adult Children of Alcoholics with and without a treatment history
Palitz, Suzanne Lynn
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Given that the existing information gathered about Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA's) emanates from clinical research focusing predominantly upon ACOA's in some form of psychological treatment, family history research focusing predominantly upon family members of alcoholics with identified psychopathology, and empirical research which fails to separate ACOA's on the basis of treatment history, the findings may have been influenced by biased sampling methods. The present study investigated this possible sampling bias. A total of 112 ACOA's participated in this study. Fifty-seven ACOA's who had no history of treatment and 55 who had such a history completed the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (Millon 1977), Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (Derogatis, 1975) and the Depression Proneness Response Scale (Zemore, 1983). The results indicated that ACOA's could be distinguished on the basis of treatment history. ACOA's with a history of treatment were experiencing more varied and intense psychiatric symptomatology and distress including depression, obsessive compulsive symptomatology, hostility, paranoid ideation, anxiety, and discomfort in the interpersonal realm. They were more prone to depression and had significantly more dependent, avoidant, schizotypal and borderline personality features than ACOA's without a history of treatment. ACOA's without a history of treatment had significantly more histrionic, narcissistic, and antisocial personality features and scored higher on a scale measuring behaviors, thoughts and feelings associated with drug abuse. These results suggest that ACOA's are a heterogenous group and failures to separate ACOA's according to treatment history status may yield findings that are not representative of the ACOA population as a whole.;A number of potential moderating variables were also explored as they related to the psychological adjustment of the total sample of ACOA's. These included: sex of the ACOA, sex of the alcoholic parent, parental drinking behavior and having one or two alcoholic parents. Female ACOA's were experiencing more anxiety and somatic symptoms than male ACOA's. No differences were found between ACOA's who were raised by one or two alcoholic parents, or raised by an alcoholic mother, alcoholic father or two alcoholic parents. However, a number of interactions emerged between the sex of the ACOA and the sex of the alcoholic parent. Sons of alcoholic mothers fared worse than daughters of alcoholic mothers. Sons of two alcoholic parents fared better than daughters of two alcoholic parents. Parent(s)' behavior while drinking was not related to differences in adjustment. Some implications of these findings are discussed.