The eyes, the ears, the nose—we get a lot from our family! Could we inherit addiction as well? Recent studies are weighing in on this question and, of course, there’s no easy answer. Without a doubt, growing up with an addicted parent or close adult can strongly influence childhood development, so much so that in the 1980s, Dr. Janet Woititz coined the term “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” or ACOA. But what does being an ACOA really mean for you today? Dr. Woititz identified 13 characteristics common to ACOAs:

  1. They guess at what normal behavior is.
  2. They have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
  3. They lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
  4. They judge themselves without mercy.
  5. They have difficulty having fun.
  6. They take themselves very seriously.
  7. They have difficulty with intimate relationships.
  8. They overreact to changes over which they have no control.
  9. They constantly seek approval and affirmation.
  10. They usually feel that they are different from other people.
  11. They are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
  12. They are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
  13. They are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences, resulting in confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environments.


Individuals who experience a majority of these traits lead lives significantly affected by the addicts and alcoholics of their
childhood. Recent research also shows that ACOAs are more likely to become addicts and/or alcoholics themselves.

In the United States, over 28 million people come from families with alcoholic parents. Being a child of an alcoholic or addict can increase the potential for addiction in later life by about two to four times than others (some statistics even suggest that the addiction risk is as much as 10 times greater for ACOAs). However, being an ACOA doesn’t destine you for a life of addiction; studies find that ACOAs have a different overall psychology than those from non-addict households of origin.

Here at Turning Point Recovery Center, about 90-95% of those who seek addiction help with us are ACOAs. While such a strong correlation certainly reaffirms the link between ACOAs and substance abuse, the predisposition and constellation of behavioral characteristics affect children of addicts across their entire life, not just in their addiction. We can help you understand how being an ACOA affects your life. Our highly skilled staff is ready to help you through recovery, tackling the heritage of our parents as we go. We’ll be with you every step of the way!

If a long one is struggling with addiction and you think an intervention is the push they need, read our “Intervention Checklist.” It will show you how to plan for the best intervention.

~Turning Point Recovery Center