2013. Vol.4, No.12, 956-962
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access
The Correlates of the Resilience of the Children of Alcoholics
Iwona Grzegorzewska, Marzanna Farnicka
University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra, Poland
Received September 30th, 2013; revised October 28th, 2013; accepted November 25th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Iwona Grzegorzewska, Marzanna Farnicka. This is an open access article distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution Li-
cense all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Iwona
Grzegorzewska, Marzanna Farnicka. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Objective: The aim of the article was to describe the process of resilience in school children of alcoholics.
Additionally, it was important to determine how risk and protective factors, personal resources and the
social environment (within the family and without) determine the occurrence of positive adaptation.
Methods: The study involved 182 children in two comparison groups (children of alcoholics and children
of non-alcoholics) in aged 9 - 12. The clinical group consisted of 90 children from families with alcohol
problems highlighted on the basis of a CAST screening test. The control group comprised 92 people from
families without alcohol problems. An expression of the resilience of children of alcoholics was the level
of a positive adaptation, as measured by two indicators: developmental tasks and life satisfaction. There
has also been measuring individual and environmental predisposition. Results: The results pointed to the
need for the adaptation of therapeutic and preventive treatment to the current stage of development as in-
dicated by developmental tasks.
Keywords: Alkoholics Family; Children; Resiliance; Positive Adaptation
For years, children of alcoholics have been a focus of study
for clinical psychologists. This is due, on the one hand, to an
unfortunately high incidence of alcoholism in modern society;
and on the other hand, to the notably specific functioning of
those families which suffer from alcohol problems. Our know-
ledge and understanding of the psychology of children of alco-
holics is constantly increasing and improving. Today, we know
that the offspring of parents addicted to alcohol are typically
characterized by an increased susceptibility to a variety of
problems (Caspi et al., 1996; the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism, 2000), and that genetic factors influ-
ence 40% - 60% of the variance of risk of alcoholism (Heath et
al., 1997; Kendler et al., 1994). However, it must be stressed
that some children of alcoholics develop properly, going on to
lead a satisfactory life free from mental disorders or issues
(Zucker et al., 2003; Hitzeg et al., 2008; Jordan, 2010).
The increased problem susceptibility of the children of alco-
holics is rooted in biological and psychosocial factors. Suscep-
tibility to alcohol abuse is affected by hereditary conditions
within the population. However, the gene responsible for alco-
holism has not yet been discovered, something which would
prove to be a spectacular event in the field of alcoholism re-
search. The complexity and diversity of the phenotypic picture
of alcoholism, in principle, may preclude the existence of a
single specific gene which is responsible for the disorder asso-
ciated with alcohol abuse. However, progress in the mapping of
the human genome is increasingly moving us towards an un-
derstanding of the relationship between the structure of chro-
mosomes and the metabolism of alcohol in the body (Higuchi
et al., 1992), which has a seemingly significant impact on
drinking behavior.
The second source of vulnerability is due to psychosocial
factors; the increased amount of negative life stress plays a role
in the development of problematic behaviors in the children of
alcoholics. From such a perspective, vulnerability may be view-
ed as the result of specific alcoholic and non-alcoholic interac-
tions of parents with their offspring (Jacob & Johnson, 1997).
The effects of alcohol are specifically related to a range of fac-
tors, such as: the unconscious process of identification and
modeling, imitation of parental drinking habits, growth expec-
tations associated with the consumption of alcohol and other
aspects of the parent-child relationship (Chassin et al., 1993;
Zucker et al., 1995). These factors are of particular importance
in the development of the problem of addiction in the offspring
of alcoholics.
However, non-alcoholic related issues can also have an in-
fluence on the more general characteristics of the family envi-
ronment, such as the under-fulfillment of the role of the parent,
distorted patterns of parent-child relationships or other co-
morbid psychiatric disorders in the parents. These act as risk
factors which increase the likelihood that children of alcoholics
may develop a whole spectrum of mental disorders, illegal be-
havior, and inappropriate social norms, including alcoholism.
This is primarily why alcoholism is associated with antisocial
personality types and the development of depression (Ellis,
Zucker, & Fitzgerald, 1997). Although the research carried out
in both fields uses different procedures and focuses on different
factors, the authors (e.g., Ellis et al., 1997; McGue, 1997) are
usually quick to emphasize that an individual’s susceptibility to
the development alcoholism-related psychological disorders is
typically the result of interactions between genetic and envi-
ronmental factors.
An increasing number of studies carried out on the children
of alcoholics is increasingly contributing to a better under-
standing of the process of development and its determinants in
the offspring of addicted parents. Research undertaken from the
perspective of developmental psychopathology has led to the
discovery of the phenomenon of resilience in the children of
alcoholics (Werner & Smith, 1982; Zucker et al., 2003). The
concept of resilience, or toughness, explains the phenomenon of
positive adaptation in young people who are at risk of experi-
encing adverse life events. It focuses on explaining the impor-
tance of the factors and mechanisms that protect an individual,
and how these factors impact the final results of development.
In the literature, and there is considerable variation in the ter-
minology for the development of resilience (see Kaplan, 2005);
however, most researchers are inclined to regard this concept
not as a permanent feature of the child, but as a multifactorial,
dynamic process of dealing with adverse conditions, in turn
leading to the development of a positive adaptation (Luthar et
al., 2000).
Positive adaptation is one of the key concepts essential for
understanding the course of the development of children raised
in inadequate living conditions. It refers to a multidimensional
process in which the individual uses his mental capabilities and
environmental resources to adapt to the requirements of the
next phase of development. Positive adaptation is considered to
be the product of mutual interaction between an individual’s
characteristics (biological and psychological), the history of
previous adaptations and development within the current phase
of life and environmental setting (Boyce et al., 1998; Sroufe,
1997; Cichetti, 2006). The assessment of adaptations in those
children at risk of difficult lives can be carried out in several
dimensions. Most often it is done within the contextual frame-
work of a number of factors, including: developmental (level of
performance and development) and positive (a feeling of well-
being). In light of this, the main objective of this study was to
determine an effective understanding of the path of develop-
ment of children of alcoholics, that is, to identify at what stages
of life there are distinct behaviors indicative of positive adapta-
tion, and how risk factors and the nature of personal resources
and environmental factors (within the family and without) de-
termine the occurrence of such adaptations at different stages of
Materials and Methods
Subjects: A total of 182 children in two comparison groups
(children of alcoholics and children of non = alcoholics) in sch-
ool age (9 - 12 years). The clinical group consisted of children
from families with alcohol problems highlighted on the basis of
a CAST screening test. 90 patients were examined. The control
group comprised 92 people from families without alcohol pro-
blems. The groups had a similar distribution of gender. The cla-
ssification of a person in the research was associated with the
fulfillment of specific criteria relevant from the perspective of
the model test. The alcohol group was: 1) an alcoholic father; 2)
a full family; 3) parents who did not report any other (non-
dependence) symptoms of psychopathology. The qualification
for the control group consisted of the following criteria: 1) up-
bringing within a complete family; 2) a lack of psychiatric dis-
orders, including alcoholism in the parents of the patients. The
control group was created from the associated selection of stu-
Test procedure: The study was carried out individually, or
in small groups. People were recruited to the study through sub-
stance-abuse treatment centers, community centers, and school
counselors. The testing procedure consisted of two stages. After
qualifying for research, permission and consent of the parents
of minors or individuals in the study was obtained. Then the
subjects proceeded to the actual test. The subjects were ex-
pected complete a set of questionnaires designed to measure the
variables under consideration.
Variables: An expression of the adaptation of children of
alcoholics (dependent variable) was the level of such an adapta-
tion, as measured by two indicators: 1) developmental tasks;
and 2) life satisfaction. Individual predispositions, including
personality (independent variables) included: temperament,
attachment, resiliency and coping with stress. Environmental
predispositions were related to family and out-family support,
with additional activities outside of this community.
Research tools: The study used tools to measure the risk
variable (family with alcohol problems), the dependent vari-
ables of positive adaptation, and the independent variable of
individual predisposition.
Risk assessment: CAST Screening Test (Jones, 1983).
Assessing Positive Adaptation
Implementation of the development: Questionnaire for At-
tainment of Developmental Tasks (QADT) by Grzegorzewska
(2006). The QADT has sound psychometric properties, reliabil-
ity coefficients obtained for a sample of 120, range from 0.77 to
0.92 (Grzegorzewska, 2006); Sense of life satisfaction: the Stu-
dents’ Life Satisfaction Scale (Brief Multidimensional Stu-
dents’ Life Satisfaction Scale). Coefficient alphas in the 0.70 -
0.80 range have consistently been reported across all age
groups. Test-retest reliability has also been established with
correlations of 0.76 across 1 - 2 weeks (BMSLSS; Seligson,
Huebner, & Valois, 2003).
Assessing Individual Abilities
Resiliency: Resiliency Scales for Children and Adolescents,
by Prince-Embury (2006). The standardization sample included
200 children ages 15 through 18 years matched to the U.S.
census by ethnicity and by parent education level within sex
and age band. Chronbach’s alpha coefficients ranged from 0.93
to 0.95 for the total sample and for males and females indicat-
ing good internal consistency. The standard error of measure-
ment ranged from 0.90 to 2.45 for the total sample on all sub-
scales indicating good reliability. Temperament: the EAS Tem-
perament Questionnaire by A. H. Bussa and R. Plomina—Pol-
ish adaptation by W. Oniszczenko (1997) The method has sat-
isfactory psychometric indicators (a Cronbach: 0.57 - 0.74;
reliability indicators: 0.71 - 0.84) (Oniszczenko, 1997). At-
tachment: the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA)
by Armsdena and Greenberg (1987) with two subscales. Reli-
ability: three week test-retest reliabilities for a sample of 27 18-
to 20-year-olds were 0.93 for parent attachment and 0.86 for
peer attachment.For the revised version, internal reliabilities
(Cronbach’s alpha) are: Mother attachment, 0.87; Father at-
tachment, 0.89; Peer attachment, 0.92. Strategies for coping
with stress: the “How are you coping?” scale (JSR) by Sieg-
fried Juczyńskiego and Nina Ogińska-Bulik (2009). The stan-
Open Access 957
dardization sample included 400 children ages 11 through 17
years and achieved good reliability and validity indexes. Chron-
bach’s alpha coefficients ranged from 0.85 - 0.87. Six week
test-retest reliabilities for a sample of 35 for dispositional and
situational strategies were: 0.83 and 0.76 for Activity Coping;
0.70 and 0.65 for Focus on Emotion, and 0.84 and 0.73 for
Seeking Support strategies. School Skills: measured by a grade
point average according to latest school reports and certificates.
Estimating Environmental Suitability
Social support: the Child and Adolescent Social Support
Scale (CASSS) by Demaray, Malecki, Elliot (2000). Reliability:
Coefficient Alpha for Total Frequency Scale was 0.96 - 0.97 for
middle school grades 5 - 8 and 0.97for high school grades 9-12.
Activity capacity: five individual questions regarding sporting
activities and hobbies, levels of engagement in these activities
and membership of organizations, clubs, teams or informal
groups. Responses were graded from 0 to 4, the maximum
score attainable being 20. Negative life events: The scale of life
experiences for children and youth (Grzegorzewska, 2006),
allowing for the assessment of normative and non-normative
events in the following four areas: education, social-familial
and social-extrafamilial relationships, as well as traumatic and
exceptional events. The tool belongs to the ordinal scale type.
Through its use, the following LES indicators can be computed:
1) the number of negative experiences/events as perceived by
the subject; and 2) the intensity of these experiences (Grze-
gorzewska, 2006).
In order to better answer the research questions, the statistical
analysis of the results included: 1) Distinguishing two different
groups through the use of the k-means clustering technique.
Those groups differed in their health profiles. This was done to
provide an estimation of the likelihood (through an odds-ration)
that a number of children of alcoholics would display high-
adaptation characteristics; 2) a determination of whether highly-
adaptive children differ from less-adaptive children—measured
in terms of individual abilities and environmental factors; 3) a
determination of positive adaptations in children of alcoholics
using multiple regression prediction.
Positive Adaptation in Children of Alcoholics
The first step in the analysis was to determine how the test
subjects cope with adapting to appropriate life and development
conditions. For this purpose, the k-means clustering technique
was used to create two groups of differing health profiles. The
profiles were extracted from the four quantitative variables
which characterize resilience: the developmental tasks and a
sense of satisfaction in life. An analysis of the main compo-
nents showed that there are two essential elements: high and
low adaptation. Profile 1 (high-adaptation)—is characterized by
young people who gave good results for the two measured as-
pects of mental health and display a good level of adaptation.
They are characterized by a higher level of development taks
and sense of life satisfaction. Profile 2 (low-adaptation)—is
characterized by young people who displayed a weaker per-
formance in relation to the measured aspects of resilience along
with a poor level of adaptation. The distribution of the popula-
tion of the various profiles obtained in the control group and
during the research, taking into account the age of participants
in the study, is presented in Table 1.
The table shows that, those subjects who were the children of
alcoholics are more frequently classified as belonging to the
low-adaptation (2) category in comparison to those of the con-
trol group where there is a higher percentage of highly-adaptive
(1) profiles. The high-adaptation profile is represented by
38.9% of the children of alcoholics, and 65.2% of the children
in the control group. The low-adaptation profile consisted of
61.1% of children from alcoholic families and 34.8% of the
control group. If the father of a family of the child of school age
is abusing alcohol, the odds ratio that qualified for the high-
adaptation profile (Profile 1) was: OR = 0.58 95%; CI = 0.34 -
0.97, and for children from families with no alcohol problem,
the ratio was: OR = 1.7 95% CI = 1.02 - 2.88 (see Table 2).
The next step in the analysis was to determine whether there
are differences in the high (1) and low (2) adaptive profiles of
children of alcoholics, measured in terms of individual and
social attitudes, and to determine what factors lead to a main-
taining of health, and any disturbance of adaptation of their
lives. Comparisons between children of alcoholics from the
low-adaptation profile and the high-adaptation profile were per-
formed using Student's t test. Along with a hierarchical method,
a stepwise multiple regression procedure was used to determine
any correlates of positive adaptation among the children of
Determinants of Positive Adaptation in
Children of Alcoholics at School Age
Firstly, we sought to answer the question of whether there
are differences between the high (1) and low (2) adaptation
profile subjects at school age in regards to the measurement of
individual and social abilities.
Individual Predispositions
Comparisons were made between subject profiles with re-
Table 1.
The Distribution of the various adaptive profiles obtained in the control
group and during research, taking into account the age of the respon-
Age Group Research GroupsTotal
Children of
1Number 35 60 95
% of
group 38.9% 65.2% 52.2%
2Number 55 32 87
Adaptation profile
% of
group 61.1% 34.8% 47.8%
Total Number 90 92 182
²(1) = 11.61; p = 0.001
Table 2.
The odds ratio for qualifying individuals to the high-adaptation profile.
Children of Alcoholics Control Group
School Age OR = 0.58
95% CI = 0.34 - 0.97
OR =1.7
95% CI = 1.02 - 2.88
Open Access
gard to the following variables: attachment, temperament, cop-
ing with stress and resiliency. In the comparison of the mother
attachment variable it occurred that children of school age
showed differences between all measured aspects of attachment
to the mother: maternal bond (t(1.180) = 3.82, p < 0.001, d =
0.85), confidence (t(1.180) = 5.71, p < 0.001, d = 1.3), commu-
nication (t(1.180) = 6.45, p < 0.001, d = 1.5) and alienation
(t(1.180) = 4.14, p < 0.001, d = 0.8). The effect size clearly
indicates that the differences are considerable. Those subjects
from the high-adaptation profile (Profile 1) are characterized by
a higher level of relationship with the mother: (M = 37.57, SD
= 7.03); as compared to those from the low-adaptation profile
(Profile 2): (M = 31.47, SD = 7.59). They also express a higher
level of confidence in the mother herself (M = 37.8, SD = 6.4)
than those who have problems with adaptation (M = 28.58, SD
= 8.05). Similarly, the patterns of the quality of communication
with the mother are reflective of this trend; higher in the
high-adaptation profile (Profile 1) (M = 35.37, SD = 6.92) and
lower in the low-adaptation profile (Profile 2) (M = 25.4, SD =
7.3). Meanwhile, those subjects who are well adapted display
significantly less alienation to the mother (M = 12, SD = 3.69)
than the low-adaptation profile subjects (M = 15.8, SD = 4.6).
Comparisons between the profiles with regards to the tem-
perament variable show that within the school-age group there
were no significant differences with respect to the emotionality
variable (t(1.180) = 4.88, p < 0.001, d = 0.9), activity (t(1.180)
= 3.56, p < 0.001, d = 0.6), sociability (t(1.180) = 4.88, p <
0.001, d = 0.9), and shyness (t(1.180) = 2.66, p < 0.01, d =
0.4). Among the high-adaptation profile, as compared to the
low-adaptation profile, there is clearly a more intense level of
the temperament traits of activity (respectively: (1) M = 18.34,
SD = 4.9; (2) M = 14.58, SD = 5.08) and sociability (respec-
tively: (1) M = 18.37, SD = 3.66; (2) M = 13.75, SD = 4.78)
and a significant lower occurrence of the traits of emotionality
(respectively: (1) M = 11.46, SD = 4.9; (2) M = 15.16, SD = 3.8)
and shyness (respectively: (1) M = 8.86, SD = 3.4; (2) M =
11.25, SD = 5.1).
With regard to the resiliency variable, there were significant
differences between those children of alcoholics at school age
who made up the high-adaptation profile (1) and those from the
low-adaptation profile (2). These differences applied to a sense
of mastery (t(1.180) = 5.6, p < 0.001, d = 1), the ability to es-
tablish satisfactory relationships with others (t(1.180) = 5.4, p <
0.001, d = 1), and a sense of control over their emotionality
(t(1.180) = 5.3, p < 0.001, d = 1) and a general psychological
resiliency (t(1.180) = 7.4, p < 0.001, d = 1.5). Those subjects
from the high-adaptation profile (1), as compared to those from
the low-adaptation profile (2), displayed higher levels of: a
sense of mastery (respectively: (1) M = 60.06, SD = 10.8; (2) M
= 46.18, SD = 11.8), sense of relatedness (respectively: (1) M =
66.09, SD = 12.9; (2) M = 51.89, SD = 11.53), emotional reac-
tivity (respectively: (1) M = 51, 91, SD = 13.26; (2) M = 35.53,
SD = 14.78), and an overall level of resiliency (respectively: (1)
M = 178.06, SD = 31; (2) M = 132, 85, SD = 26.3).
When comparing the results of the research among the dis-
tinguished profiles regarding strategies to cope with stress, it
appears that in the school-age group, the significant differences
are between dispositional (F(1.180) = 8.58, p < 0.01, d = 1.2)
and situational (F(1.180) = 11.53, p < 0.001, d = 1.2) active
coping strategies and discretionary strategies for seeking sup-
port (F(1.180 = 4.54, p < 0.05, d = 0.4). People who are well-
adapted to life, as compared to persons having difficulties, dis-
play a higher level of disposable (relatively: (1) M = 6.66, SD =
3.19; (2) M = 3.95, SD = 2.5) and situational (respectively (1)
M = 6.49, SD = 3.54; (2) M = 3.77, SD = 2.63) active coping
strategies along with discretionary strategies for seeking sup-
port (respectively: (1) M = 5.14, SD = 2.88; (2) M = 4, SD =
3.5). The remaining differences are not statistically significant.
An analysis of the results also shows that academic skills
clearly differentiate between the well-adapted subjects (those
from Profile 1) and those children who have difficulty adjusting
(Profile 2) (t(1.180) = 6.2, p < 0.001, d = 1.3). Well-adapted
subjects, from the high-adaptation profile (1), as compared to
those from the low-adapted profile (2) who have difficulties,
are characterized by better academic skills (respectively: (1) M
= 4.32, SD = 0.75; (2) M = 3.2, SD = 0.88).
Environmental Predispositions
Comparisons between the profiles regarding parental social
support show that within the school-age group there existed sig-
nificant differences between the amount of obtained support
from both the mother and the father (respectively from the
mother: (t(1.180) = 8.07, p < 0.001, d = 1.22; from the father
(t(1.180) = 7.01, p < 0.001, d = 1). Those children who receive
a higher level of support from the mother (M = 61.29, SD =
11.04) and from the father (M = 49.42, SD = 18.89) tend to
adapt far more effectively to the social environment as com-
pared to those children from Profile 2 (respectively: (1) M = 45,
SD = 15.94; and (2) M = 30.51, SD = 17.38). As regards to
support from extra parental sources, those subjects in the
youngest group exhibit significant differences between the pro-
files when it comes to support obtained from: teachers (t(1.180)
= 7.8, p < 0.001, d = 1.2), classmates (t(1.180) = 9.32, p <
0.001, d = 1.5) and a closefriend (t(1.180) = 9.67, p < 0.001, d
= 1.5). Those children at school-age from the high-adaptation
Profile 1 show significantly higher levels of support from
teachers (M = 52.28, SD = 12.88), classmates (M = 58.31, SD =
13.43) and a closefriend (M = 61.32, SD = 14.08) as compared
to those children from the low-adaptation Profile 2 (respec-
tively: support from teachers (M = 36.18, SD = 14.93), class-
mates (M = 36.79, SD = 14.8) and a closefriend (M = 38.47,
SD = 17, 69)).
Correlates of Positive Adaptation
The next stage tested which factors are the strongest corre-
lates of positive adaptation among school-aged children of al-
coholics. Through the use of a series of regression analyzes
(hierarchical and stepwise), in which a large group of variables
are taken into account—the potential correlates of positive ad-
aptation in children can be established. The results from multi-
ple linear regression analyses are displayed in Table 3. Due to
the transverse nature of the research, it is not possible to iden-
tify which variables and individual and environmental factors
are determinants of positive adaptation. The identification of
resources and categorical risk factors would only be possible
through a longitudinal study. However, it can be assumed that
such contributing variables, from different levels of strength,
help in the development of mental resistance in children of
alcoholics .
At school-age, different factors, of various strengths, have an
impact on resilience. In the analysis, the variables in question
were related to positive aspects of health: life satisfaction and
developmental tasks.
Open Access 959
Table 3.
A hierarchical regression analysis of the correlates of resilience indica-
tors in school-aged children of alcoholics.
Satisfaction Developmental Tasks
R2^ R2^
Emotionality 0.028
Sociability 0.136
with mother 0.151 0.231** 0.400
Trust of mother
Alienation from
mother 0.280** 0.024
Paternal bond
Trust of father
Alienation from
Sens of Mastery 0.184
Resiliency Sens of Relatedness 0.199** 0.094
achievement 0.214** 0.045
Classmate 0.220** 0.022
Close Friend 0.206** 0.037
Activity Capacity 0.227** 0.082 0.180* 0.013
R2^total 0.128 0.589
F(5) = 22.467
p 0.001
F(7) = 30.64
p 0.001
Note: ***Correlation is significant at the level of 0.001; **Correlation is significant
at the level of 0.01; *Correlation is significant at the level of 0.05; —standard-
ized regression coefficient; R2^—adjusted coefficient of determination.
The strongest explanatory variable to account for life satis-
faction in school-age children of alcoholics is the presence of
support received from colleagues and friends. These variables
explained 10.4% of the variance. An important factor adversely
affecting sense of life satisfaction is anger and hostility to the
mother, however it is not an overly strong correlation (R2 =
2.4%). Many more variables explain developmental task per-
formance within children of school age. The strongest predictor
for this variable turned out to be good communication with the
mother—this accounts for 40% of the variance of the results.
Other important protective factors that explain a further 18% of
the variance are: sens of relatedness, educational achievement,
support received from a friend, and the individual’s own activ-
ity capacity in his/her environment.
The results of the hierarchical and stepwise regression analy-
sis that the proposed model explains about 13% to 60% of the
variance of mental health in school-aged children of alcoholics;
based on their individual characteristics, especially: resiliency,
maternal attachment and educational achievements; and the
characteristics of their surrounding environment, particularly
support received from classmates and friends. The strongest
predictors which support the process of resilience in the young-
est group of children of alcoholics were found to be the level of
maternal bonds, communication with the mother and low levels
of alienation from her along, and the competence of the indi-
vidual in relationships with others.
As early as half a century ago in the theoretical models of
alcoholism studies there was a tendency to view the disorder,
and its underlying causes, as a phenomenon essentially subject
to the influence of one factor. The dominant view was the child
of an alcoholic would inevitably exhibit many of the problems
and symptoms of psychopathology. One of the key research
aims that were posed in this study was to answer the question
of whether the population of children of alcoholics can be dif-
ferentiated according to different aspects of mental health. It
turned out that although parental alcoholism clearly affects
mental the mental health of young people, about 40% of them
exhibit adequate levels of adaptation to the conditions of life.
Our results support the hypothesis of the occurrence of resil-
ience in the development of children at risk, and the children of
alcoholics from Profile 1 of the research can be defined as
adaptive individuals presenting a high-level of adaptation, de-
spite exposure to adverse cumulative life experiences. There is
the outstanding question of whether or not a well-adapted chil-
dren of alcoholics differ from their less well-adapted peers from
alcoholic families, in such a way that can warrant being labeled
as resilient?
As it happens, it turned out to be possible. The research
shows that resilient children of alcoholics are characterized by a
specific system of individual predispositions and environmental
factors. They are typically characterized by patterns of secure
attachment with the mother. People who are healthy and well-
adjusted tend to have a positive temperament, which at school
age, manifests itself as low level of emotionality and shyness,
and a high level of sociability and activity. Compared to the
low-adaptation profile (Profile 2), subjects from the high-ad-
aptation profile (Profile 1) shows better educational achieve-
ment, and more initiative in pursuing their own interests and
needs. Comparisons of the children of both profiles regarding
support obtained from parents, teachers and classmates suggest
that well-adapted children have much larger networks of close
people, ready to help them in everyday situations.
The results of this study provide a basis for claiming a uni-
que specificity of the process of resilience among children of
parents with mental disorders. As noted by Luthar and Cicchetti
(2000) the acquisition by children within high-risk groups of
positive indicators of healthy mental-functioning is the result of
great struggle and great effort; an effort much greater than in
children of less dysfunctional families. A key resource for these
children, to help them function efficiently and effectively, and
to cope with chronic stress appears to be their innate biological
equipment in the form of a more positive temperament, and
especially a greater ability to regulate their emotions. This can,
in a way, allow such individuals to protect themselves against
the negative effects of parental alcoholism.
In various models of research on the subject of children of
alcoholics, it is assumed that alcoholism in parents impairs their
ability to effectively parent, which in turn increases the risk of
improper adjustment in children, especially by entering into
contact with peers showing deviations and engaging and esca-
lating behaviors associated with the abuse of psychoactive sub-
stances (Windle & Davies, 1999). With regard to youth risk be-
havior, researchers often use the concept of the multiple devel-
Open Access
opmental paths as an explanation of phenomena, such as the
growing influence of peers and the importance of making make
friends. This requires recourse to complex transactional proc-
esses: a model of peer socialization (abuse of psychoactive
substances by peers directly affects young people) and peer
selection models (youth selects peers with the most similar
attitudes to their beliefs). The research of Curran, Stice, and
Chassin (1997) confirmed the effects of the interaction with
peers on developmental paths, both on the model of peer selec-
tion and peer socialization. The results provide data on the ex-
istence of a dynamic, two-way relationship between the use of
psychoactive drugs by young people, and the similarity of the
behavior of their peers. Likewise, it was also found that alco-
holism in a parent also increases the risk of alcohol abuse.
Other studies have revealed the existence of a developmental
path of consisting of many variables (influencing the growth of
developmental problems), such as the problems of addiction in
parents, experiencing severe stressful life events, low levels of
parental support, low self-control, and an increased tendency to
relate to their peers in terms of deviant behavior (Wills et al.,
1996). Our results support the conclusion that these factors, and
their mutual configuration, allows for the potential prediction of
development paths.
Practical Implications
The results provide a basis of reasoning regarding the dy-
namic structure of risk factors and resources in the lives of
young people. Such an inference is possible in an indirect
manner, rather than direct one, due to the transverse nature of
the study. It turned out that the explanatory power of a complex
matrix of individual and social factors is dynamic and varies at
different stages of life. Among the youngest respondents the
importance of the role of the school environment was especially
marked, especially in children acquiring basic knowledge and
the emergent skills of literacy, numeracy and writing. As chil-
dren of alcoholics mature, their mental toughness is explained
less by the role of social factors, and more by the predisposi-
tions of the individual, especially temperament and resiliency.
It is worth noting that the results obtained in the study indi-
cate the specific role of parents in shaping the psychological
resilience of children of alcoholics. During school age, even
despite strong relationships with peers, parental influence is a
major factor in the most important aspects of adaptation. The
family remains the main venue of support and advice. Support
from parents and good relationships with them, especially ma-
ternal, correspond to a higher index than the support that young
people receive from their peers. The conclusions for practice
indicate the essential role of parental relationship with children,
and the importance of academic achievement during. Therefore,
helping young students with problems in regards to school ap-
pears to be a real factor in the support that can be offered as
part of prevention .
In conclusion, it is worth noting the need of including chil-
dren in prevention programs specific to children in families
with alcohol problems, as well as the taking into account the
specificities of the stage of development at which the child is
located. The content and scope of these programs should be
drawn from knowledge of the relationships between the various
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alcohol and anti-social behavior) and protective factors (e.g.,
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