01. september 2014

Understanding Addiction: Adult Children of Alcoholics Describing Their Parents Drinking Problems

Based on qualitative interviews with adult children of alcoholics, this article analyzes three different ways of conceptualizing drinking problems: alcoholism as disease, alcoholism as volitional behavior, and alcoholism as a socially conditioned phenomenon. The interviewees (13 women, 12 men, average age 39 years) were recruited among employees at a large workplace who in a preceding survey had classified their parents as having “alcohol problems.” The analysis reveals a pattern in which adult children’s understandings of their parents’ drinking problems, in essence the ways they think alcoholism should be explained, are associated with the ways they describe their relationship to their parents and the hardships of their childhood. The article suggests that differences in childhood experiences may lead to different ways of understanding the phenomenon of alcoholism, just like differences in understandings of alcoholism may affect recollections of childhood experiences.

Margaretha Järvinen: "Understanding Addiction: Adult Children of Alcoholics Describing Their Parents’ Drinking Problems" in Journal of Family Issues (online first, December 2013)