Correlates of spousal and parental alcoholism: An examination of the validity of the theory of codependency among wives and children of alcoholics.
AuthorHinkin, Charles Henry.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe concept of codependency has been advanced in recent years in an effort to explain certain psychological and behavioral traits purported to be characteristic of spouses and adult children of alcoholics. The core symptoms which have been considered to define codependency are: low self-esteem, dependency, depression, and excessive sensitivity to interpersonal opprobrium. Secondary features are: defensiveness, anger, marital discord, lower self-perceived psychological health in ones family of origin, and excess alcohol use. To test the validity of this hypothesized syndrome, 97 female subjects married to either an alcoholic (SA) (n = 31), a psychiatric patient (SP) (n = 35), or a dentistry patient (SD) (n = 31) were studied. These subjects were further dichotomized based on whether they had a positive family history (FH+) for alcoholism. Following the obtaining of informed consent, all subjects were administered a battery of psychological tests consisting of the MMPI-168, SCL-90, TSCS, DPE, DAS, and FOS. The results of 2-way MANOVA revealed a significant main effect for both husbands' diagnosis and family history for alcoholism for both the primary and secondary features of codependency. No interaction was present between the grouping factors. Relative to the SD subjects, the SA subjects significantly differed in the expected direction on measures of dependency, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, anger, dyadic adjustment, and prevalence of excess alcohol use. The SA subjects significantly differed from the SP subjects on all of the above measures with the exception of depression. FH+ subjects, compared to FH- subjects, significantly differed in the expected direction on measures of self-esteem, interpersonal sensitivity, anger, degree of psychological health in the family of origin, and prevalence of excess alcohol use. Contrary to expectation, the FH- group scored higher on the administered measure of defensiveness. With the exception of lower levels of psychological health in the family of origin, the SA/FH+ subjects did not statistically differ from the SA/FH- subjects. In addition, the SA and FH+ subjects also evidenced significantly higher scores on many other measures of psychologic symptomatology not purported to be characteristic of codependency. It was therefore concluded these data suggest that two dissociable subtypes of codependency may be identifiable: one subtype associated with parental alcoholism and one associated with spousal alcoholism.