Revisiting the Concept of Adaptive Familial Roles and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA): Forty Years Later
Dhami, Navneet Kaur
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The term adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) refers to adults who have grown up in a home with at least one alcoholic parent. ACOAs have often been studied as a homogenous group without examining type of family dysfunction. The present study investigated the relation between demographics, personality, and parenting measures and Wegscheiders (1981) ACOA adaptive familial roles of Hero (responsible overachiever), Mascot (family clown), Scapegoat (rebellious/disruptive behaviours), and Lost Child (withdrawn/isolated). Data were collected from 327 participants (M age = 35.3 years) who self-identified and were grouped as ACOA, Abused, ACOA+Abused, or Control. Generally, the ACOA group was similar to the Control group in terms of family roles and measures of personality and parenting but differed from both the Abused and the ACOA+Abused groups, with the exception of the Lost Child role. Higher scores were found for the positive Hero and Mascot roles in the Control and ACOA groups compared to the Abused and ACOA+Abused groups. Conversely, higher scores for the negative Scapegoat role were found among the Abused and ACOA+Abused groups compared to the Control and ACOA groups. There was a strong influence of personality related to the adoption of family roles whereas the influence of parenting was small in comparison. Individuals from the family type groups were more likely to adopt the Lost Child role compared to the Control group but the influence of family type group was negligible for the other family roles. The significance of this studys findings and clinical relevance are discussed.