How many people are ACOAs?

This is the million-dollar question. The truth is that we aren’t entirely sure how many people are adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs), but there are several estimates and the numbers are rather frightening.

An article from Psychology Today puts the number at 18%, or nearly one in five adults (Smith, 2016). According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NCOA), the number rises to one in four.

Personally, I think there is a lack of attention on the subject because we ACOAs tend to want to hide our pain and suffering to protect the family unit. We don’t talk about the issues as to do so would be “disloyal” to our families. It is important to recognize that you are not alone, especially so if nearly one in five people have experienced the effects of alcoholism first-hand.

“ACOAs may have loving but inconsistent parents, which makes it difficult for them to speak negatively about their childhood to anyone” (Smith, 2016).

Each year, over one million children are confirmed as victims of child abuse by state child protective services. (Imagine now how many cases go unreported, but that is another issue entirely.) Of these confirmed cases, nearly 80% had alcohol abuse as a primary factor (Bavolek & Henderson, 1990). Take from that fact what you will, but it is quite obvious to me that there are likely far more ACOAs than we acknowledge are out there. Alcoholism is a huge problem in our society and one that is often swept under the rug because it is a legal drug.


Smith, Ann. “Adult Children Of Alcoholics”. Psychology Today. Feb. 19, 2016. Web.

Bavolek, Stephen J.; Henderson, Hester L. (1990). “Child maltreatment and alcohol abuse: Comparisons and perspectives for treatment”. In Potter, Ronald T.; Efron Patricia S. Aggression, Family Violence and Chemical Dependency. Binghamton: Haworth Press. pp. 165–184.

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