Many popular assumptions about children of alcoholics are being questioned by new research, posing a challenge to the hugely popular therapy movement directed at them and other "adult children" of problem families.
Although proponents of the movement say they have scientific support for their views, critics are unconvinced.
The therapy is based on the idea that the childhood experiences of "adult children of alcoholics," or "ACOAs," have left them with unique emotional patterns and problems.
These include, for example, feeling different from others, putting up a false front, being reluctant to stand up for themselves and failing to enjoy life as much as they would like.
But a new study has found that most people feel this way. The researchers charge that these and other basic beliefs of the ACOA movement are so vague or true of so many people that almost everyone identifies with them.
In short, they are so universal that they are devoid of therapeutic usefulness. These researchers say these statements, which seem more specific than they are, are similar to those used by for-tunetellers or astrologers.
Proponents of the movement concede that more research is needed on ACOAs. But they say scientists studying the transmission of alcoholism from generation to generation have ignored the clinical experience of therapists who treat children of alcoholics.