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Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Children of alcoholics-Psychology, Children of alcoholics-Services for, Self-disclosure in children, Object relations (Psychoanalysis), Distress (Psychology), Friendship in children, Alcoholism, Resources for children of alcoholics, Object relations, Distress paradox, Qualitative


This qualitative study examines the perspectives of adult children of alcoholics on disclosure and support from childhood peers. Through self-developed, semi-structured interviews, questions were posed to these participants to elicit reflections on their childhoods, specifically on the processes of disclosing caretaker alcoholism and gaining needed support from friends. The study's aim was to gain perspective and examine the experienced effects and the processes of disclosure to and support gained from friends in childhood for adult children of alcoholics. It was in hopes of better providing a foundation for how social work practice can enfold peers into interventions in order to better serve a population that is often under-resourced. Major findings of this study include an establishment of different roles childhood friends play in coping with caretaker alcoholism; an overwhelming preference to disclose to friends with like-experiences; benefits, deficits, and challenges in curriculum and interventions in the participants' experiences as well as suggestions for improvement such as attention to destigmatizing alcoholism, including curriculum on alcoholism in the home, and recognition of compounding intersecting identities that pose barriers to gaining support. It has become clear through this study that caretaker alcoholism not only has a profound effect on children, but also that friendships, or the lack thereof, profoundly impact coping, communication, and the provision of support for children of alcoholics. Implications of this study for future research and social work practice suggest that friendships are an underutilized resource and it is essential that social work practice promote these relationships and more effective interventions in approaches for treatment with children of alcoholics.




iii, 134 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 114-119)