The adult adjustment of offspring of parents with drinking problems

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One hundred and sixty-four 16-35-year-old offspring of parents with drinking problems, recruited from a variety of clinical and community sources, were compared with 80 respondents of similar ages from similar sources who did not have parents with drinking problems. Each was interviewed using a semistructured interview. Adult adjustment was similar in the two groups, but the offspring of parents with drinking problems did report considerably more disharmony in their families of origin, and many more childhood difficulties. Factor analysis of the adult adjustment data for the samples combined showed four factors which accounted for 41% of the variance; these factors differed little in their effect in the two groups. The groups' reports of the drinking problems of their siblings, however, suggests that this sample might be unrepresentative of the true risk to the children of parents with drinking problems for the development of alcohol-related (although not other) difficulties in adulthood: 16% of this group reported a sibling with a drink problem and a further 9% were unsure, but only one member of the comparison group reported a sibling with a drink problem, and one was unsure. Path analysis showed that both parental problem drinking and family disharmony are related in complex ways to adjustment difficulties in adulthood. 'Demoralisation', the largest of the four factors, was particularly related to disharmony in the family of origin: in the absence of disharmony, offspring versus comparison status was negatively correlated to demoralisation in adulthood, suggesting that having a parent with a drinking problem might sometimes be a strengthening experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-516
Number of pages14
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1993


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