Children of Alcoholics Can Become Super Responsible

Or They Can Be Super Irresponsible

Young woman cleaning kitchen worktop
Tony Hutchings/Getty

Many children who grew up in alcoholic homes tend to become super responsible with a tendency toward perfectionism. Because they faced harsh, sometimes unreasonable, criticism from their alcoholic parent, many children of alcoholics try to be "perfect" to avoid any criticism. This "solution" of hyper-responsibility can be motivated by other dynamics in an alcoholic family.

On the other hand, when their attempt at perfectionism naturally falls short, some adult children of alcoholics give up and go the opposite direction, becoming super irresponsible.

These common characteristic can not only occur in children of alcoholics, they can be an outcome for children who faced other emotional challenges while growing up.

The following comments about becoming super responsible were submitted by readers of the Alcoholism site when asked the question, "How Do You Feel Growing Up With an Alcoholic Parent Has Changed You?"

Always Taking Responsibility
I blame myself for everything and I am always taking responsibility for problems that aren't my own. I put so much into relationships that are undeserving and try to maintain my own happiness by ensuring that I can make those around me happy. -- Nineteen

Highly Competitive Perfectionist
I'm a perfectionist, highly competitive and often over-extend myself. I feel like I'm just not quite good enough and it is very important to me to be the best. I'm always seeking approval. -- Learning

All-Or-Nothing Attitude
I had no idea how many facets of my life were affected by growing up with drug-alcohol dependent parents. Low self-esteem, poor coping skills, anger, a "need to please" everyone so as not to rock the boat. The all-or-nothing attitude. -- Motta

Obsessed With Being Good Enough
I have a tendency to want to rescue people and friends are those I think I can help, or else why would they want to be my friend? I'm also obsessed with being good enough, having a good enough home, tending to perfectionism. -- Invisible

My Parents' Mother
I've had to be the mother to my parents my whole life. Because I'm older now and seem well-adjusted, no one in my family or friends takes it seriously when I need help. -- Molly

Taking Responsibility for Everyone
I don't think growing up with an alcoholic mother has made me a victim, but I do try to take on responsibility for everyone in my life to make their lives better to the extent where their well being comes before my own. -- Ally

I Had No Childhood
I was taught at a very early age how to take on the responsibilities of the parents - cooking, cleaning, babysitting, shopping, working, etc. I had no childhood, or at least one that I would have wanted. I was always stuck at home doing chores while one of my parents was at the bar. -- Alley

Trying to Fix Others
I find myself still trying to fix the alcoholics of this world I have been a drug and alcohol counselor now for 13 years. I tried to make things better for all alcoholics by fixing them. When I was younger I tried to fix others -- Oldest Daughter

Are You Super Responsible?

Do you tend to take on responsibilities that really do not belong to you? Do you tend to be a perfectionist? You may have been affected by growing up in an alcoholic home in other ways that you do not realize.

Take this quiz to get an idea of how much you may have been affected.

Return to: The Effects of Growing Up with an Alcoholic


Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, "The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic," (Attributed to Tony A., 1978). Accessed November 2010.

Janet G. Woititz, "The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children," The Awareness Center. Accessed November 2010.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman's Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues" Updated 2008.

Continue Reading