Cover image for Perfect daughters : adult daughters of alcoholics
Perfect daughters : adult daughters of alcoholics
Ackerman, Robert J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Deerfield Beach, Fla. : Health Communications, 1989.
Physical Description:
xii, 197 pages ; 22 cm
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HV5132 .A265 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Daughters of alcoholics often assume responsibility for the failures of others. Ackerman explores - and helps conquer - these issues.

Are women who were raised in alcoholic families, adult daughters, different from women who were raised in non-alcoholic families? Dr. Ackerman, a leading expert on alcoholism and the family and especially on children of alcoholics of all ages, has brought together the thoughts, ideas and feelings of more than 1200 women in this first book on adult daughters of alcoholics.

Do you find yourself represented in any of the following statements from adult daughters?

If I please everyone, everyone will be happy If I don't get too close emotionally, no one can hurt me Nothing is wrong but I don't feel right Something is missing from my life My relationships usually consist of a lack of trust, fear of intimacy, low self-worth, over-responsibility and picking the wrong person.

If you often feel isolated, engage in self-condemnation, experience inconsistency, always want to be in control, rely heavily on others for their approval and believe that you must be perfect, you have many things in common with other adult daughters. Adult daughters are beginning to talk about their experiences, express their fears and share their growth. This book represents many of the stories of childhood pain and the paths to recovery that have been found by many Perfect Daughters.

Author Notes

Based in Pennsylvania, Dr. Ackerman is the chair of the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Training Institute as well as professor of sociology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His books have become the cornerstone of Recovery and ACoA movements. He is also a founding board member of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.



From Chapter 2 - Home Groan: Daughters In Alcoholic Families Your Age Daughters who were born into an alcoholic family may have totally different perceptions and experiences than daughters whose parent(s) became alcoholic when they were fourteen. The younger you were when your parent became alcoholic, the longer you were exposed to active alcoholism and the higher the probability that you were negatively affected. Additionally, your developmental stage of childhood might have influenced how you perceived alcoholism. For example, a five-year-old sees only the behavioral effects of alcoholism, which she equates with drunken behavior. A fifteen-year-old can equate alcoholism not only with being drunk, but also with a variety of perceived motivations as to why the alcoholic drinks. Children do not automatically recognize that a parent is an alcoholic. As a matter of fact, many adult children will not accept even now that one or both of their parents is or was an alcoholic. In childhood, recognizing that the parent has a drinking problem occurs in three stages. In the first stage, a child begins to realize that her house is different from that of her friends. However, just because families differ does not mean that something is wrong. During the second stage, the child begins to suspect that the differences between her home and other homes is something that should be covered up or denied because she doesn't want her friends to know. In the third stage, the child becomes aware of what the difference is, which is that her parent drinks too much. Most daughters of alcoholics reach the third stage around age thirteen (Ackerman, 1988), which does not mean that the daughter tells anyone, but rather that she admits to herself that she knows what the problem is in her house. After all, many adult daughters admit the alcoholism only as adults, long after their childhood has ended. Other factors influence the age at which daughters reach stage three. The gender of the alcoholic parent and whether one or two alcoholic parents were present are both contributing factors. For example, most daughters of alcoholic fathers reach stage three when they are twelve years old. (Approximately 60 percent of the adult daughters in this study had an alcoholic father only.) Daughters of two alcoholic parents typically admit the drinking problems when they are approximately fourteen years old. Perhaps both parents did not become alcoholic at the same time, or if a daughter has two alcoholic parents, she did not have a nonalcoholic role model to compare her adults to. Therefore, realizing the inappropriate behaviors in one's parents may take longer because they were both doing the same thing and not until being exposed to other parental role models does a daughter begin to admit the differences. (Only 20 percent of the adult daughters studied had two alcoholic parents.) Daughters of alcoholic mothers often do not reach stage three until they are almost nineteen, per Excerpted from Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics by Robert J. Ackerman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Introductionp. xix
Part 1 Childhood Revisited
Chapter 1 Am I the Only One Who Feels This Way? Letters from Perfect Daughtersp. 3
Chapter 2 Home Groan: Daughters in Alcoholic Familiesp. 33
Chapter 3 What Did You Learn at Home Today?p. 57
Chapter 4 These Are the Things I Learnedp. 71
Part 2 Collecting Emotional Baggage
Chapter 5 Alcoholic Mothers: Pains of Endearmentp. 89
Chapter 6 Alcoholic Fathers: Daughter Dearestp. 103
Chapter 7 Two Alcoholic Parents: Don't Add, Multiplyp. 123
Chapter 8 Secrets and More Secretsp. 133
Part 3 Codependently Yours
Chapter 9 Me, Myself and I: How Well Do You Know These People?p. 157
Chapter 10 What Kind of Adult Daughter Are You?p. 171
Chapter 11 I'm Not Codependent, Are We?p. 199
Part 4 Concerns of the Day
Chapter 12 Relationships, or You Married a What?p. 217
Chapter 13 Perfect Parentingp. 247
Part 5 Discovery and Recovery
Chapter 14 I Think I Can, I Think I Canp. 263
Chapter 15 To Self, with Love, from Daughterp. 279
Postscriptp. 293
Appendix The Research Behind Perfect Daughtersp. 295
Bibliographyp. 299
Indexp. 305