A Toxic Brew: 13 Common Personality Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics

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traits of adult children of alcoholics

Growing up in a home where there is an alcoholic in the family can be riddled with dysfunction. If you’re one of those who grew up with an alcoholic or an addict in your family, then you probably know how it is. In this kind of environment, especially when one or both parents are addicted to substances such as drugs or alcohol, you may remember uncertainty in your childhood. That feeling of not knowing what to expect the next day. All you know is that it’s always going to be unpredictable. There’s fighting, arguments, violence, chaos, disappointment, shame, anger, resentment, confusion, and so many more.

traits of adult children of alcoholics

(Image from recoveryranch.com)

This said, children of alcoholics tend to grow up in an unstable home. More often than not, their emotional needs aren’t met. As a result, they develop skewed behaviors as well as coping difficulties. They may also have a hard time expressing themselves as well as their feelings later on in life.

Spending Childhood in a Home Where There is an Alcoholic or Addict

The childhood stages are a key developmental time where a significant part of a person’s personality and value system is being molded. This stage in our lives provide a foundation for our future relationships as adults. If you grew up in a dysfunctional household, it may be difficult to develop healthy, trusting, and emotionally balanced relationships later on in life.

According to a landmark study conducted by Janet G. Woitiz, Ed. D., and published in her book, “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” there are 13 personality traits common among children of alcoholics. Dr. Jan was also married to an alcoholic, and her study was based on her personal experience. This was augmented by her work with clients raised in dysfunctional families. Later on, it was discovered that these personalities also extend to children of parents with addictions as well as other compulsive behaviors such as gambling.

13 Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics

  1. Guess at what normal behavior is
  2. Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end
  3. Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
  4. Judge themselves without mercy
  5. Have difficulty having fun
  6. Take themselves very seriously
  7. Have difficulty with intimate relationships
  8. Overreact to changes over which they have no control
  9. Constantly seek approval and affirmation
  10. Feel that they’re different from other people
  11. Are super responsible or super irresponsible
  12. Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  13. Are impulsive—They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

If you’re a child of an addict or an alcoholic, it doesn’t guarantee that everything in the list will apply to you, but it is highly likely that some of them definitely will.

The Bright Side: Resiliency of Adult Children of Alcoholics

While the above traits may make it difficult for these adult children of alcoholics to create healthy relationships with other people or to cope with various situations, they also develop resiliency. Their experiences allow them to easily bounce back in times of trouble–that is, if this resiliency is tapped properly.

This singular trait can be a powerful resource that will allow them to grow, succeed, and be fulfilled individuals.

Aside from resiliency, they ay also be loyal, responsible, intuitive, empathic, and driven. They can be highly loyal and compassionate individual. They also learn a special sense of personal responsibility that can spur them towards successful endeavors. They may also be highly intuitive and empathetic, which allows them to be caring and flexible to their surroundings and towards the people they interact with.


Are you still struggling with an alcoholic or addicted parent? Perhaps now is the time for them to get professional help. Talk to us at Bridges of Hope: 09175098826.

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