Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Bullmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Brashear

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Oswald

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Malcolm Robertson


Several theories have been proposed in the last 5 years suggesting that adult children of alcoholics (ACAs) comprise a unique population in need of specialized treatment services. The purpose of this study was to test two of the basic assumptions underlying the various theories. The first assumption considered was that ACAs have poorer self-esteem than adults who are not children of alcoholics (non-ACAs). The second assumption was that an alcoholic home is less facilitative in the promotion of trust development, autonomy, and expression of feeling than the nonalcoholic home. The researcher proposed that poor self-esteem in ACAs would be positively correlated with low levels of facilitation of trust, autonomy and feeling expression in the family of origin.

The sample consisted of graduate students from 10 classes in nine different departments within a Midwestern university. Each student completed the Children of Alcoholics Screening Test (CAST), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Family-of-Origin Scale, and an information sheet. Using the CAST as a classification tool, the sample consisted of 44 ACAs and 110 non-ACAs.

A one-way analysis of variance was used to determine mean differences both for the self-esteem scores and family of origin ratings. There was no difference in self-esteem scores betwen ACAs and non-ACAs. There was a significant difference (p < .001) in family of origin ratings indicating the ACAs experience their families as less facilitative in the promotion of trust, autonomy, and feeling expression. A Pearson product-moment correlation was used to determine the relationship between self-esteem and family of origin ratings. It was significant for both ACAs (p < .01) and non-ACAs (p < .001).

The results of this study could not support the premise that ACAs have significantly lower self-esteem than the normal population. Recommendations for research in the area of self-esteem and other ACA subgroups were made and therapists were encouraged to complete thorough assessments with each ACA requesting treatment. Recommendations were also made regarding prevention and early intervention strategies that might be employed with alcoholic families to promote healthy development in the children.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Counseling Commons