Volume 17, Issue 1 (1988)
Children of Alcoholics: At Risk and unserved: A review of Research and Service Roles for School Psychologists
Deborah J. Tharinger, Margaret E. Koranek
ABSTRACT: Parental alcoholism is a form of psychological maltreatment of children. It promotes unhealthy patterns of parent-child and family relations that negatively affect children’s development, and it leaves children at risk for psychological disorders in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. School psychologists have unique responsibilities and opportunities to be of help to children of alcoholics. With additional knowledge and support, school psychologists can participate in the effort to lessen the impact of the psychological maltreatment experienced by these children. The literature on the effects of alcoholism on the family system is reviewed and a developmental, organizational theoretical framework is proposed to account for the relationship between parental alcoholism and its effects on children. A critical review is presented of the research findings on the effects of parental alcoholism on children’s development. Questions addressed include: Are children of alcoholics more likely to become alcoholics as adults than children of nonalcoholics?A re children of alcoholics more likely to experience social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties than children of nonalcoholics? What is the relationship between childhood behavior disorders and alcoholism? What variables have been shown to mediate the risk of children of alcoholics becoming alcoholic and manifesting adjustment problems? A re children of alcoholics more at risk for physical and sexual abuse than children of nonalcoholics? And, what are the long term effects of being a child of an alcoholic? In addition, major obstacles for school psychologists to overcome to work effectively with children of alcoholics are discussed. Finally, roles that school psychologists can fill are described, including serving as advocates, being involved in identification and assessment activities, participating in indirect intervention and prevention activities, and providing direct intervention and treatment services.
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