Children of Alcoholics Forced Into Adulthood

Her oldest daughter became the substitute mother, protecting her four younger siblings. "I was scared and couldn't even leave the house to go to the store," she said. "Rosalee would take the kids to school and pick them up and cook for them."

Jobee was "like the man of the house and stood back and watched everything," she told "They tell me now that they never felt safe at home."

Like the 11-year-old who told 911 his mother had not been home the night before, because she was drinking, "Jobee would not let me leave the house for fear I wouldn't come back," said Berry.

The father eventually served jail time.

Today, sober for three years, she sees the cycle of abuse. Berry is raising Rosalee's two young children, as her daughter, a methamphetamine addict, serves prison time for attempted murder.

"There is so much guilt, but my daughter says not to blame myself, because the kids are older and doing good now," she said.

Still, Berry says the children have not gone unscathed.

"They tried to block a lot of stuff out," she said. "Jobee's very quiet and never shows anger ever, and when does, I'm afraid he will blow."

Her 18-year-old son is "very shy" and her 17-year-old daughter suffers from bipolar disorder.

Indeed, research shows that exposure to multiple trauma will increase the likelihood that a child will later have both mental and physical problems, according to Dr. Robert Anda, scientific adviser to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

Anda is one of the principal investigators of the federally funded Adverse Childhood Experiences study, which found that cumulative exposure to stress can affect neurodevelopment.

"It really affects the whole journey of human development when you stress a child," Anda told "Alcohol abuse in the home is part of a spectrum of interrelated experiences, and your chances of problems on the list goes up in tandem."

Stress Contributes to Disease

Growing up with alcoholic parents can increase the risk for all major chronic diseases -- heart, lung, liver -- as well as for suicide, injuries, HIV and other sexual diseases, according to the ACE study.

As for the 11-year-old who made headlines this week, "That is just one stressful moment in that child's life," Anda said. "But that boy has been stressed in many ways over a long period of time."

Children of alcoholics always deal with anxiety, according to Debra Borys, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, who treats adults who were raised in alcoholic homes.

"They have to anticipate what can go wrong in a situation, both the danger the alcoholic can cause to himself as well as abuse," she said.

"Most kids don't have to worry about the loss of the parent," she said of the boy who dialed 911. "But he does. And he himself could be in personal danger, and that life or death situation can be overwhelming for the whole child."

When children spend their developing years obsessing about protecting themselves and their family, "the energy that is normally going to development and educational growth is not happening."

Others become fixated on control, neatness or perfectionism in their schoolwork, or eventually become workaholics, she said. Many learn to calm themselves by turning to substance abuse and eating disorders.

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