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What is an Adult Child of an Alcoholic?

The term "adult children of alcoholics" (ACOA) was first coined by Janet Geringer Woititz in 1983. The term is now commonly used to describe people who were raised in a home with an alcoholic parent, or who grew up around alcohol abuse in some other way. ACOAs may suffer from co-dependence and low self-esteem because their parents were unable to meet their needs for nurturing and emotional support as children. As adults, they may struggle with issues such as trust, intimacy, abandonment issues and feelings of being trapped or powerless

The characteristics of a

dult children of alcoholics.

As an adult child of an alcoholic, you may have experienced emotional abuse, relationship problems, and shame. The following list of characteristics is a compilation of the common effects that ACOA's experience:

  • Inability to trust

  • Fear of abandonment

  • Low self-esteem

ACOA's are often left with feelings of insecurity from their childhood experiences. They may feel like they're not good enough or that something is wrong with them. This can lead to problems in relationships as we become adults because we don't know how to be assertive or get our needs met withou

t feeling guilty about asking for them.

Helping adult children of alcoholics.

This is a great place to start if you are looking for some help. The ACOA concept was developed by Dr. Janet Geringer Woititz, who herself was an adult child of an alcoholic. She has helped thousands of people deal with their past abuse and heal from it, including her own daughter, who had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for many years before finally getting clean at 45 years old.

You can read more about the Adult Children of Alcoholics program here:

Healthy boundaries protect us from emotional blackmail.

Healthy boundaries are important for protecting your physical, mental and emotional health. They help you to avoid being manipulated by others and to feel more confident, assertive and self-assured.

Knowing what your boundaries are can be difficult because they are unique to each individual—what may bother one person may not bother another. But as with everything else in recovery, there are some general guidelines that can help you figure out where they lie:

  • Your physical space is your own; if someone enters into it without permission, it's a boundary violation

  • Your time belongs to you; if someone tries to take away too much or uses up all of it so that you don't have any left over for yourself (i.e., "Your time belongs to me"), this is also a boundary violation

Know the characteristics of adult children of alcoholics, so that you or a loved one can understand them and get help.

If you are an adult child of an alcoholic, it's important for you to understand the characteristics of adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) so that you or a loved one can get help.

  • Know the characteristics of healthy relationships.

  • Know that it is not your fault that your parent is an alcoholic and that there are ways to get help if needed.

  • Know that there are other people like you who might need support as they go through this difficult time in life.


If you are an adult child of an alcoholic, then you know the pain and shame that comes with trying to explain this situation to others. It can be difficult to understand how someone who is supposed to love and protect their children could do something so devastating. However, there are plenty of resources out there for those looking for support in their recovery from this type of abusive environment. The most important thing is accepting help and getting better!


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