The survival roles of children of alcoholics: their measurement and validity



    1. Psychology Department, The Australian National University
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    Corresponding author
    1. Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University
    • Valerie Braithwaite, Research School of the Social Sciences, The Australian National University, GPO Box 4, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 2601.

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Scales to measure five survival rules proposed by Black (1979) and Wegscheider (1976) as characteristic of children of alcoholics were developed and tested among a sample of 112 adolescents. Scales representing the lost child, the acting out child, and the mascot were highly intercorrelated, but use of the placater role was relatively unrelated to other roles. The relationship between parental drinking and role use was examined using hierarchical multiple regression which controlled for sex, age and three family variables, intimacy, deliberateness and cohesiveness. Parental alcoholism contributed to children adopting the acting out role, did not contribute to explaining variation in the lost child and mascot roles, but was the sole predictor of the adoption of the responsible child role. In the case of the placater role, controlling family deliberateness led to the emergence of a previously masked relationship with parental alcoholism. The survival roles appear to be as much a response to family disorganization as to parental alcoholism.