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Children of Addicted Parents Face Difficulties in Adulthood

When he was a child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, Fred Nelson remembers what would happen when his mother and her boyfriend drank. After a few beers they would start arguing, then the boyfriend would hit her.

“I knew then that there was a problem,” said Nelson, now 54. “I knew that something wasn’t right about all of that.”

Children are adaptable and often don’t know anything but their own “normal.” But Nelson’s youthful intuition was remarkably accurate.

Alcohol or other substance abuse by a parent is considered an adverse childhood experience, or ACE. In 1998, a group of psychologists coined the term in one of the largest investigations of the effects of childhood abuse and neglect on later-life health and well-being. That study — and others that followed — revealed a relationship between ACEs and negative well-being throughout life.

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