Title

A Phenomenological Study of the Occupational Choices of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Start Time

15-10-2009 10:45 AM

End Time

15-10-2009 11:15 AM

Abstract

There is a considerable amount of theoretical and research-based literature supporting a biopyschosocial approach to alcoholism and its effects on family members of alcoholics. Included in this research is the notion that individuals who are adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) are “victims of an alcoholic family environment characterized by disruption, deviant parental role models, inadequate parenting, and disturbed parent-child relationships.” These functional pressures, which inhibit opportunities, are thought to “undermine normal psychological development and to cause distress and impaired interpersonal functioning” while contributing to an increased risk for a wide range of emotional and behavior problems. However, little research has been done on how being an ACOA potentially affects occupational choices. The objective of this research was to explore the meaning to participants, who self-identified as adult children of alcoholics, of their occupational choices. The Lifestyle Performance Model was used as the theoretical approach for the study. Occupational choices made by participants involved activities that meet needs in the following areas: self care/self maintenance, intrinsic gratification, reciprocal interpersonal relatedness, and social contribution. Participants included five adult women who volunteered to be interviewed and who self-identified as an ACOA. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews which were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Following transcription, data underwent analysis following standard qualitative methods of coding and thematic analysis. Currently, four emergent themes have been identified: “It Happens TO Me”, “The Devil and God”, “I Just Like to Keep to Myself”, and “I Don’t Think I’d Change It.” Each theme addresses a set of individual traits or commonalities expressed by participants; these include: perceived lack of occupational choice, solitary occupations (e.g. work and leisure), prematurely assuming adult roles under excessive parental expectations, and resiliency. However, “The Devil and God”, which is primarily concerned with navigating conflicting identities (e.g. inside the home versus outside the home), currently appears to be the overarching theme. Findings suggest that most chosen occupations are greatly affected by past experiences of growing up with an alcoholic parent and are solitary and work, not leisure-related. Ideas from feminist and social justice are used to support these findings.

References

Ellis, D., Zucker, R., & Fitzgerald, H. (1997). The role of family influences in development and risk. Alcohol Health & Research World, 21(3), 218-225. Access Article

Ericksen, J. & Henderson, A. (1992). Witness family violence: The children’s experience. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 17, 1200-1209. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1992.tb01836.x

Price, A. & Emshoff, J. (1997). Breaking the cycle of addiction: Prevention and intervention with children of alcoholics. Alcohol Health & Research World, 21(3), 241-246. Access Article

Sher, K. (1997). Psychological Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics. Alcohol Health & Research World, 21(3), 247-254. Access Article

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Oct 15th, 10:45 AM Oct 15th, 11:15 AM

A Phenomenological Study of the Occupational Choices of Adult Children of Alcoholics

There is a considerable amount of theoretical and research-based literature supporting a biopyschosocial approach to alcoholism and its effects on family members of alcoholics. Included in this research is the notion that individuals who are adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) are “victims of an alcoholic family environment characterized by disruption, deviant parental role models, inadequate parenting, and disturbed parent-child relationships.” These functional pressures, which inhibit opportunities, are thought to “undermine normal psychological development and to cause distress and impaired interpersonal functioning” while contributing to an increased risk for a wide range of emotional and behavior problems. However, little research has been done on how being an ACOA potentially affects occupational choices. The objective of this research was to explore the meaning to participants, who self-identified as adult children of alcoholics, of their occupational choices. The Lifestyle Performance Model was used as the theoretical approach for the study. Occupational choices made by participants involved activities that meet needs in the following areas: self care/self maintenance, intrinsic gratification, reciprocal interpersonal relatedness, and social contribution. Participants included five adult women who volunteered to be interviewed and who self-identified as an ACOA. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews which were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Following transcription, data underwent analysis following standard qualitative methods of coding and thematic analysis. Currently, four emergent themes have been identified: “It Happens TO Me”, “The Devil and God”, “I Just Like to Keep to Myself”, and “I Don’t Think I’d Change It.” Each theme addresses a set of individual traits or commonalities expressed by participants; these include: perceived lack of occupational choice, solitary occupations (e.g. work and leisure), prematurely assuming adult roles under excessive parental expectations, and resiliency. However, “The Devil and God”, which is primarily concerned with navigating conflicting identities (e.g. inside the home versus outside the home), currently appears to be the overarching theme. Findings suggest that most chosen occupations are greatly affected by past experiences of growing up with an alcoholic parent and are solitary and work, not leisure-related. Ideas from feminist and social justice are used to support these findings.