Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are you an Adult Child?

In this post, Rising Rainbow discusses her experiences at an Adult Children of Alcoholics Meeting. I found her post very interesting and did some more reading. One website talks about “adult children” which is a label attached to people who grew up in dysfunctional homes. Just as Rising Rainbow found herself identifying with many characteristics (and I did too), I also found myself relating to the characteristics of an Adult Child. So I thought I would share –

Over the years, those who have studied the "adult child" phenomenon have compiled a list of common characteristics which many people who grew up in dysfunctional homes seem to share. The following characteristics were developed by Dr. Janet G. Woititz.

You may recognize some of them.

Adult Children:
...guess at what normal is. (yep I do that)

...have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end. (yes and no – it depends on my level of anxiety and what the project is)

...lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. (well, “lie” seems so harsh. I prefer the term “storytelling” J I will admit to a whole lot of storytelling as a child. Some was necessary to cover up my home life. Then I would get confused about what version I told which person, and would tell another story to cover up. Pretty soon I just made up crap willy nilly for no reason whatsoever. I would also become terrified when I did something wrong. Fairly typical with abusive parents. So I'd lie to cover things up. It’s a hard habit to break but I now value my honesty and try my best.)

...judge themselves without mercy. (guilty as charged)

...have difficulty having fun. (yes, I have to make a very concentrated effort to relax and have fun)

...take themselves very seriously. (I am a very serious person but I don’t value myself or my skills so I’m not sure if I take myself seriously)

...have difficulty with intimate relationships. (check)

...overreact to changes over which they have no control. (oh yes, that just drives the control freak in me bonkers)

...constantly seek approval and affirmation. (yep - do you think this blog post is okay? LOL)

...feel that they are different from other people. (I ~know~ I am different than others)

...are either super responsible or super irresponsible. (count me in on super responsible)

...are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved. (not really)

...tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess. (I tend to overanalyze and not commit, so guess I’m the opposite of this).

So what do you think? Can you relate?

While I exhibit most of the characteristics, I do not particularly like the term “Adult Child.” I don’t think of myself as childish at all. I have trouble finding my inner child. I was an adult-like child for most of my life. I find it ironic that a person can be adult-like in so many ways, yet child-like in so many others. What are your thoughts?


Vague said...

i think the label refers less to childishness in us as adults, and more to acknowledging the fact that we are adults today who grew up - as children - in a home with dysfunctional parenting, and we bear those marks with us even today...

and simply, a child is always a child-of the parent, no matter the age of child, and the parent is always the parent-of, no matter the age of parent or child. so to say i am an adult child of a dysfunctional parent is simply stating that my mother was dysfunctional, and that it has - and still does - affect me, even though i am now an adult.

cornnut32 said...

many of those characteristics apply to me.

i have a really hard time dealing with things---i still feel the urge to run away and hide under my covers when things get too hard. i respond like a child when under intense emotional pressure. even sometimes in joking i talk and act like a little girl without realizing it. my husband can see a visible switch in me when i lose control. he really does have to deal with it as if i am a child because emotionally i am in a lot of ways. it makes it so much harder for me though, because intellectually i am an adult. when he talks to me like i'm a child (which is how i'm acting) i am furious because intellectually i respond as an adult and i feel that he is talking down to me.

i think this is extremely common in childhood abuse victims. it's such a confusing mix of emotions and intelligence...the six-year-old me and the adult me.

Ethereal Highway said...

I like this list and I like my answers to it, too. There are several things that I cannot answer yes to today that I would have a handful of years ago. I guess I have made some progress and it is nice to have bumped into something that shows me change and hope.

(But I so hear you on that super-responsible thing. I'm not sure I want that one to go away. If it did, my life would fall apart around me.)

mssc54 said...

I can relate to some of these and even seem to be "off the chart" with a couple.

The term "Adult Child" sounds much better than "Immature."

Marj aka Thriver said...

Great post, Enola! Yes, I can relate to many of these. It's weird, really. Before I retrieved repressed memories of sexual abuse (always had the verbal and physical abuse memories) I was casting my net, so to speak, looking for help. I started to go to Alanon meetings, even though neither of my parents were alcoholics. I found a lot of the information and the support helpful.

The Real Gal said...

Oh yeah, Me, me, and did I say me? So much I can relate to!

Mich41 said...

I can totally relate to these points. I can also relate to the inner child comment that you make. The therapist asks about my inner child and I keep telling her that I don’t think I have one. I also remember always having to be adult-like.

austin said...

it sounds very borderline as well.

I over react to change and I am sooooo overly responsible it's not even funny and more loyal than man's best friend.

good post


lawyerchik said...

I recognized myself in so much of that but I wasn't abused as a child, nor were my parents alcoholics. It makes me wonder whether the circumstances of abuse or alcoholism (bad as they are) aren't really a symptom of something greater which just expresses itself in abuse or alcoholism.....

April_optimist said...

Sure, I can relate to the list. The good thing is that what we check off can get unchecked as we move forward emotionally and prcess the past.

Kahless said...

I need to connect with my child more. I think that is true of a lot of us.

jumpinginpuddles said...

ghmmm is thinking about this