Adult Children of People with Addiction: 12 Characteristics

A young man sits alone in an empty playground and drinks a beer.Alcoholism, known more clinically as “alcohol dependence syndrome,” is characterized by craving, loss of control, and physical dependence. People with alcohol addiction can have negative impacts on those with whom they associate. Research has shown that children of people with alcohol addiction can develop some personality traits that may impact their lives as adults.

Here are 12 common characteristics of adult children of people with alcohol addiction as described by Woititz (1988):

  1. They guess what normal behavior is.
  2. They have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
  3. They lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
  4. They judge themselves without mercy.
  5. They have difficulty having fun.
  6. They have difficulty with intimate relationships.
  7. They overreact to changes over which they have no control.
  8. They constantly seek approval and affirmation.
  9. They usually feel that they are different from other people.
  10. They are super responsible or super irresponsible.
  11. They are extremely loyal, even when loyalty is undeserved.
  12. They are impulsive.

Research shows that adult children of people with alcohol addiction are at risk of having their own alcohol addiction, abusing drugs, and attempting or committing suicide. Also, they may develop patterns of compulsive behavior such as overeating and other eating issues.  And adult children of people with alcohol addiction often marry people with the same addiction.

If you are an adult child of a parent who is addicted to alcohol, remember that you are not alone. Millions of people have grown up in families with alcohol-related problems. Because of the environment they grew up in, they had to develop certain skills in order to survive:

  • Resilience
  • Ability to take charge
  • Problem solving
  • Loyalty
  • Hard worker
  • Ability to respond well in crisis

Remember: You are not responsible for the alcohol abuse or violence in your family. If you are feeling overwhelmed, have strong feelings of depression and anxiety, or if you are consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or other drugs, get help. Seek support of family and friends, find a recovery group, or speak to a mental health professional.

© Copyright 2011 by Marta Rocha, MA, LMHC, PsyD Candidate, therapist in Orlando, Florida. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Sarah Grace

    Sarah Grace

    February 7th, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    What a sad way to go through life.

  • tudor s

    tudor s

    February 7th, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    kids of alcoholics would be exposed to unpleasant things and alcohol in their early childhood and like everything negative,it has a bad effect on them and these are just results of that unpleasant experience.This is why it is so important for parents to shield their kids from any negative habit or hobby that they may have…

  • cate


    February 7th, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    this is why it is do important for the government to invest in and work towards deaddiction of people all over,and especially for those who cannot afford the same.and for those of you who are think why should our tax dollars be used for this-read this article and think about how our future generations can suffer if this menace of alcohol addicion is not controlled.

  • Evelyn


    February 11th, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    They can also hold difficult emotions towards the alcoholic parent. My son’s opinion of his dad changes from nothing but very poisonous language to genuinely wanting to make up with him. I know this is unusual for him because he rarely shows that much emotion when it comes to others. His reaction to his dad wanting to get in touch swings constantly from eagerness to disinterest. I never know how he will be when that email comes in.

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