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November 2016

Publication Title

Atlantic Journal of Communication



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Family communication is a strong predictor of the attitudes and behaviors children and adolescents have toward alcohol. This study explored perspectives of family communication about the topic of alcohol in focus groups consisting of adult children of alcoholics and adult children of nonalcoholics. The study utilized Koerner and Fitzpatrick’s (2002) family communication patterns theory and Gottman’s (2001) emotion regulation theory to guide research and focus group questions. A group of trained coders conducted an analysis of transcripts from four focus groups—two were comprised of self-proclaimed adult children of alcoholics and two consisted solely of adult children of nonalcoholic parents. Based on responses from both groups, five themes emerged: Experiences of Open Communication, Family Decision Making, Communication about Alcohol, Ability to Express Emotion, and Feelings Toward the Alcoholic. Results suggest that adult children of alcoholics have a very different experience when it comes to family communication, communication about the topic of alcohol, and the ability to express emotion. These findings provide insight to the communication dynamics in families of alcoholics and suggest avenues for future research.


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