Objective: This study investigated children of alcoholics' (COAs) exposure to inter-parental conflict before and after their fathers received alcohol treatment and compared exposure levels to a community comparison sample. Method: This study included 67 couples with a treatment-seeking male alcoholic partner and children aged 4-16. The alcoholic fathers and their relationship partners provided data at baseline and at six and twelve month follow-ups. A community comparison sample of 78 couples with children in the target age range completed similar longitudinal assessments. It was hypothesized that treatment of paternal alcoholism would be associated with a decrease in COAs' exposure to conflict, and that among remitted patients exposure to conflict would decrease to the level found in the community sample. Results: Prior to the father's alcohol treatment, the children of the treatment sample were exposed to significantly more conflict between their parents than in the community comparison sample. After the fathers received alcohol treatment, COAs' exposure to conflict significantly decreased at both the six and twelve month follow-ups compared to baseline. Children of remitted alcoholics did not differ significantly in levels of exposure to conflict at six months follow-up compared to the community sample as predicted. However, at twelve months remitted alcoholics reported significantly more exposure to conflict compared to the community sample. Conclusions: Decreased child exposure to parental conflict is a benefit associated with the father's treatment for alcoholism, and it may lead to improvements in COAs' functioning after parental treatment. (Author abstract)
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