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Keating, Lesley (2020) Understanding the experiences of adult children of alcoholics. Other thesis, University College Cork.

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Introduction: Current national policy reinforces the notion that children’s rights and health are of paramount importance to their development and wellbeing, yet the issue of parental alcohol misuse and its effects, remains largely hidden in Irish society. In recent years a range of Irish studies, reports and initiatives have begun to recognise the problem, also known as hidden harm. These existing studies are largely quantitative in nature, however there is a lack of rich data about lived experiences. The aim of this project to discover and highlight the unique challenges that adult children of alcoholics face in the context of mental health and wellbeing.

Method: Analysis of secondary data from 17 short stories of lived experience submitted via the ‘Silent Voices’ website. interviews with 7 adults who identify as Adult Children of Alcoholics. Data was analysed using thematic analysis

Analysis: Silent Voices shared voices emergent themes include ‘Toxic Stress’, and ‘Lifelong impact across the developmental stages’, An overarching theme in the primary interviews was ‘Toxic Stress’. There are several salient sub themes within this overall theme such as behavioural changes due to alcohol, exposure to: mental illness, physical & emotional abuse, physical & emotional neglect.

Conclusion Given the breadth of the impact that is experienced by Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs), a timely and appropriate response is warranted and a number of recommendations have been suggested.

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