20 Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families

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Janet Woititz, John Bradshaw, Claudia Black and many others have written and taught about issues related to adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) for decades. Nonetheless, as long as there are parents who have addictions, there will continue to be new generations of ACOAs.

Common characteristics of adult children of alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families

1. Are unsure of normal behavior, therefore, they have to guess at it.

2. Experience difficulty with follow through.

3. Often lie when the truth would be easier.

4. Are their own worst critics, judging themselves harshly.

5. Have difficulty relaxing and having a good time.

6. Often take themselves very seriously.

7. Struggle with intimacy.

8. May be rigid and feel a need to control things, including things that are out of their control.

9. Have a high need for approval, acknowledgement and acceptance.

10. Experience themselves as different from other people.

11. Tend to be either overly responsible or irresponsible.

12. Are loyal to a fault, even when it is not in their best interest or deserved.

13. Tend to be impulsive and fail to consider the consequences of their actions.

14. Spend a lot of time cleaning up their mistakes and beating themselves up for bad behavior.

15. Frequently feel self-loathing.

16. Often feel out of control.

17. May also have addictions.

18. Have problems with relationships.

19. May be overly dependent or independent.

20. Have difficulty with boundaries.

(Adapted from 13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics, Janet Woititz, PhD)

Any of these sound familiar? What type of dysfunction did your family of origin have, if any? How did that affect you as a child and now as an adult? Any traits that you wouldn’t want to pass on to your own children?

Please comment and follow this blog for future conversations!


Author of Rocky Road to Recovery self-help memoir. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.

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