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Recent Dev Alcohol. 1991;9:301-26.

Psychological characteristics of children of alcoholics. Overview of research methods and findings.

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Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Columbia 65211.


Recent years have witnessed a dramatic interest in the psychological characteristics of children of alcoholics (COAs). This chapter provides an overview of this research, focusing on (1) studies suggesting genetic contributions to the intergenerational transmission of alcoholism, (2) studies characterizing the features of an alcoholic rearing environment, and (3) empirical studies contrasting COAs and children of nonalcoholics (non-COAs). Although it appears that COAs do differ from non-COAs on a number of variables that might have etiological significance for the development of alcoholism, the pattern and consistency of findings defy a simple integration. Perhaps more important, much of the available research is characterized by methodological limitations that preclude strong inferences concerning the nature and extent of deficits in COAs. Relevant methodological issues such as ascertainment strategy, the heterogeneity of parental alcoholism, the specificity of COA deficits, and design strategies are described and their possible impact on study outcomes is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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