Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Brenda J. Lohman


Research has explored the negative environmental influences on the development of children of alcoholics (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2002); however, there is limited literature that explores the specific mechanisms that aid these children to successful development in emerging adulthood (Jaeger, Hahn, & Weinraub, 2000). There are known genetic, psychological, and social risks for children who have been raised by a problem-drinking parent (McKenry & Price, 2005). This study examined the parent-adolescent relationship; socioemotional behaviors (e.g. internalizing and externalizing behaviors); and social competencies of emerging adults who grew up in a family of alcoholism. Protective factors and barriers associated with parental alcoholism and healthy socioemotional obtainment as a young adult were also evaluated.

Methodologically, a retrospective qualitative inquiry research approach was utilized. This study provided a unique perspective through a healthy adaptive approach by evaluating emerging adults who were adult children of alcoholics and were successfully functioning (e.g. academically successful and psychologically healthy). The findings provide evidence that possessing protective factors such as innate drive to succeed and being involved in extracurricular activities can help a child of alcoholism overcome some of the most prominent barriers of growing up in an alcoholic home (e.g. an unpredictable environment and poor family communication). These findings indicated the importance of children of alcoholics needing to establish attachments beyond their parent-adolescent relationship.

It is also important to note that participants reported that both protective factors and barriers changed overtime. Several of the participants shared that their attachment relationship with their drinking parent also changed over time. A final salient finding was that their current romantic partner served as a source for learning more effective communication patterns and building trusting relationships with others. This study revealed the participants' distinct interpretations of being raised by one or more parents who were an alcoholic. By providing a greater understanding of what can be done to help this vulnerable population in the U.S., human service providers can assist children of alcoholics in overcoming some of the internal and external barriers outlined in this study in order to become thriving healthy emerging adults.


Copyright Owner

Sarah Elizabeth Bickelhaupt



Date Available


File Format


File Size

158 pages