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Soc Sci Med. 1995 Jan;40(1):15-25.

Accountability for alcoholism in American families.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Memphis, TN 38152.


Responsibility for alcoholism is examined within the context of families with an alcoholic parent. The perceptions of alcoholics and their spouses are discussed with respect to who or what is responsible for the etiology of alcoholism, the alcohol-related behaviors, and the consequences of the drinking in terms of the family's reaction to and the eventual resolution of the problem. In their attempt to understand the source of alcoholism and solutions to the problem, families draw upon different explanatory models of responsibility which frequently involve guilt, blame and shame. Brickman et al's theoretical framework for responsibility for helping and coping behaviors is applied to interview data from alcoholic families in the United States with respect to alcoholism. While these families typically do not hold the alcoholic responsible for the presence of the alcoholism in the first place, ultimately they do hold the alcoholic accountable for finding a solution to the alcoholism.

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