By Mark S. Gold, MD

More than 28 million Americans have seen at least one parent suffer alcohol’s adverse effects lead to serious family problems. More than 78 million Americans, or 43 percent of the adult population, has been exposed to alcoholism in the family, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD).

For decades, efforts at understanding and treating alcoholism have focused primarily on alcoholics and the havoc this disease has brought to their lives. Later, groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen examined the effects alcoholism has on relatives and friends of alcoholics. Children of Alcoholics groups have drawn considerable attention to this subject.

Growing up in a family where one or both of the parents are alcoholic can prove to be so painful and emotionally traumatic that years later the adult child will still be suffering from the scars. As children they had to become “superchildren,” responsible for running the family, feeding their parents, while constantly living in fear of their parents.

These psychological scars, combined with the strong possibility that the genetic traits for alcoholism may be inherited, result in a very high percentage of alcoholism—25 percent— among children of alcoholics. Even if the child does not become an adult alcoholic, other psychological problems may result, such as obsessive-compulsive disorders and the unrealistic need to be “perfect.” Regardless of the particular problems that may befall them, many adult children of alcoholics benefit from the many associations that offer help and support. Visit