Sympathy and misery in families with drinking problems
Sympathy is an emotion that connects people in trouble with those around them. This paper uses Candace Clark’s sociological theory on sympathy-giving to explore the emotional relationships between adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) and their parents. Three dimensions are singled out as being central to sympathy-giving. We show, first, that the ‘sympathy accounts’ of alcoholic parents are related to the degree to which they live up to standardized parental obligations. Second, ACOAs’ sympathy investment in their parents is associated with the parents’ reciprocation – in terms of returning the sympathy, showing gratitude and/or acknowledging their problems and trying to solve them. Third, the interviewees’ sympathygiving is related to the moral status they ascribe to problem drinkers, and especially their conceptions of alcohol problems as being self-inflicted or caused by circumstances the drinker cannot control. The paper is based on qualitative interviews with 25 ACOAs recruited through a survey in Denmark.
Margaretha Järvinen & Charlotte Bloch: "Sympathy and misery in families with drinking problems"; Acta Sociologica; 2016