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Editorial Reviews

It is estimated that as many as 34 million people grew up in alcoholic homes. But what about the rest of us? What about families that had no alcoholism, but did have perfectionism, workaholism, compulsive overeating, intimacy problems, depression, problems in expressing feelings, plus all the other personality traits that can produce a family system much like an alcoholic one?

Countless millions of us struggle with these kinds of dysfunctions every day, and until very recently we struggled alone. Pulling together both theory and clinical practice, John and Linda Friel provide a readable explanation of what happened to us and how we can rectify it.

Related Reviews

Easy and Extremely Informative

By A Customer @ 1999-09-20

This book appears at first to deal just with additctions. Further reading proves this book to be excellent reference for any individual suffering from depression, anxiety, childhood trauma and different kinds of abuse suffered during childhood. It explains how being an addict, depressed, anxious etc...are only symptoms of a dysfunctional family system. It will become easier to understand while reading this book why we are the way that we are. It offers comfort, insight, and the how to change if we so choose to. To me this book is the Bible that unlocks the secrets of the symptoms to my sometimes very difficult life.

Achieving Understanding

Karen Kelly @ 2000-08-23

This incredible book leads those of us in recovery from dysfunction to attempting normalcy. It is written specifically for those who have no idea what normalcy is. Our parents, who loved us, unknowly led us into a life that is lived without the skills to develop intimacy that is necessary for our closest relationships. The Friels explain our losses without blaming anyone and give concrete ways to help adult children recover their true selves.It explains how some of the most severe comditions of mental illness can be related to our dysfuncional families. Most of all it gives us hope for the future and for developing loving relationships.

Well focused approach to codependency

By A Customer @ 1998-07-27

Having read several books on the adult child isssue, I found this book to be the most straight forward and specific that I had read. This book explains the origins of the adult child, the process that can lead to addiction, and the personal work necessary to get to the root of the problem. While many books explain the symptoms and the cause of codependency, I found this book to also address what needs to been done to enter recovery. All this is accomplished is a very practical and easily read manner.

Informative, enjoyable, and applicable!

Janine Mecham (rmech @ 1998-07-29

John and Linda Friel not only discuss dysfunctional families, but more importantly, they teach the secrets of functional families! This is a first. The reading is easy for all levels and ages. Even my sixteen year old daughter said that it was very interesting for "one of those kind of books". This book provides a plan to be implemented over time. The authors really speak to the heart. It has given me effective words and language to use in situations that I would not have had previously. I will use Adult Children as a reference for quite some time.


Douglas Crosby @ 2006-03-15

Illuminating and frightening. We all have baggage and until we find a place to safely store it, those closest to us are also burdened with it. The ideas in this book promote taking responsibility for our actions, looking into the motivations of those actions, and examining the source of our attitudes without placing blame on anyone. It's a great book about growing up to be healthy and facing one's demons without guilt. It's a relief to read this material and know that it's OK to feel a certain way, and even better to feel that healthy change is possible.

Understandable and Informative

Nowelle "Nowelle" @ 2005-10-19

I just finished this book and I recommend it to anyone wanting a better understanding of what it means to be an Adult Child. If you are not sure you fall into this category, there are a few quizzes and questionaires that I thought did a good job of answering this question for me. Ive read other books on the subject, and this book did a good job of keeping the psychological babble to a minimum while making it educational and informative. The best thing I think it did was make me realize that I am sitll an adult child and where these issues possible stem from. I think it could have done better in exploring the different roles within a family structure. It definatly pushes 12-step groups and individual counseling which is a healthy next step with these kinds of issues. Its a great first read or refresher on this subject matter.

Nobody teaches this stuff. Read it!

Tanya "Little Mouse" @ 2006-03-29

Excellent. A bit dated but timeless content. The beginning and end speaks to AA type meetings but it's not the main focus of the book, co-dependency is, which just about everyone deals with growing up. Quick read. There are a few short stories featuring animals that are sprinkled between the chapters, adding levity and a moment to escape and explore how the new information may serve you. My favorite, The Goose, whose parents told her not to leave the pond despite her feeling sick but she finally did leave and discovered she was right. The family unit unknowingly puts family members into positions and then keeps them there unable to see the dysfunction. Once one family member took action leaving the others behind the others eventually followed. If one family member is acting out and you don't know why it is not always the issue of the one who is acting out, look beyond, look to yourself first. Highly recommended.


Healing @ 2006-08-19

This very well written books offers insights about who we are as a person and why we are the way we are. I found the book very comforting because it reinforced what I was feeling inside. This book also gives advice about how to change. I think that even if you don't come from an "abusive" family you should read this book because I know that everyone can relate and learn from it in many ways.

Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families

Louise Tallarico @ 2005-09-06

I bought a copy for all adult members of my family. We are each reading a few chapters before meeting and discussing what spoke to us personally. So far we are all impressed with the book. I'm hoping this will put us all on the same page before going in for family therapy if we feel it's needed.


[email protected] @ 1999-05-05

This book has really put a lot of things in persepective for me. It tells me why my family is like the way they are and that it is not my fault they are at war with each other. It also has given me a view as to why my husband's family act like they do. It really does shed light on a lot of things about our families.

It will help you

By A Customer @ 2001-06-07

I highly recomend this book for it has helped me to grow inorder to help myself and deal with my disfunctions. I purchesed the book years ago and had to replace it recently. I first purchased it after reading "Hidden Guilt" which is no longer in print and not as easy to read. I seem to read the book more as a reference on what not to do in my life and how to move on to better things.

Thank You

Mark @ 2006-11-04

I have worked in mental health for about 4 years now. I am very good at what I do but came to realize that I have been too busy helping others rather than taking care of myself. All of this is pretty ironic to me. This book caused me to open my eyes and see that I have some issues that must be dealt with. This book has given me the motivation and courage to seek help. I never thought I was part of a "dysfunctional" family but could identify with many aspects of this book that really hit home and helped me understand what was going on a little better. As the author says it is very important to keep an open mind, be honest, and let go of our denial that acts only as a defense mechanism to cover up the underlying problem.

The Child Inside of my heart was released.

emloughl @ 2010-11-25

At the time I first picked up this book, I was feeling completely helpless and suicidal. I bought this book with another book focusing on depression. I found that focusing on depression was utterly ridiculous, as depression was the symptom, not the cause. This book looks deep into the causes of huge problems many of us face, but are afraid to deal with because we all subconsciously know the truth of the immense pain deep inside. Instead of facing that deep pain, we try different 'remedies' to absolve the symptoms. But these symptoms, such as addictions, depression, suicidal thoughts, compulsions, and eventual personality disorders are actually the child locked inside, telling us that we need to let him or her out. And upon beginning of therapy, I found that these 'adverse' symptoms were actually helping me. This immense pain was forcing me to get out of my denial, and forcing me to get help. In this way, although I still experience many of these 'adverse' symptoms, I am very grateful that they are there, as I know that they are on my side. Even healing in tiny little bits so far, I cannot explain the incredible feeling of release, of freedom, of love, gratitude for life and the world around me. I am feeling incredible, and am recovering.

Reading through this book helped me to access truths locked down deep inside my heart, where I realized I had locked up the child inside of me, protecting him from the abusive world. This book discusses dependency in depth, what it means and how it works, where it came from. It is very direct and authoritative.

It helped me to unlock deep roots of psychological pain, and I am on the road to recovery. I have taken action in getting myself out of dysfunctional situations, and away from dysfunctional people, and I couldn't be happier.

I highly recommend this book. Whether or not this book is right for you at this moment, however, I wish everyone strength and courage on their paths of recovery.

Adult Children The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families

Mary C. Shemon "shem @ 2010-05-04

good kinda scary though figureing out what is what and that each and every family has their own secrets that they hide and some have hidden for yeaars very good but make sure that you hide it from the family or else they might get upset.

My First

Linzi @ 2009-09-10

I got this book as a recommendation. It is the first Adult Children book I have ever read and the first time I have ever heard the term "Adult Children." I'm so enthusiastic about learning more about myself and "recovering" being an Adult Child that I believe this book did the trick. It made be recognize things that were were wrong about me but I had no idea what to call it, where to start, or how to fix it. Lastly, it is written well, easy to understand, not a lot of psych mumbo jumbo or unrealistic ideas.

Yep, this book nailed it!

Laura Lee Heinsohn " @ 2009-02-14

Cracking the Parenting Code: 6 Clues to Solving the Mystery of Meeting Your Child's Needs

This book brought me great insight into my life and helped me make sense of my crazy childhood. I have gone back to this book several times and recommended to it friends and family who are struggling to make sense of their whacky pasts!Cracking the Parenting Code: 6 Clues to Solving the Mystery of Meeting Your Child's Needs

A Good Read

G. Haecker @ 2007-12-11

This is a thorough book and has a lot of great information. It can be a bit clinical, but still offers insight into the results of dysfunctional family life.

little more than a marketing tool for 12 step programs

david smith @ 2010-06-06

I found this book extremely limited on its perspective. It made emotional abuse victims out to be people who simply enroll in a 12 step program to get on the path to healing. While this is one way to get better it is not the only way. But this books presents itself as the only path. This books is so biased I wonder what the authors true agenda really was.

A much better read is "Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame". It is has much more useful information and advise for those suffering from emotional abuse as a child. It also offers helpful and practical activities to gradually overcome your childhood pain.

Adult Children, The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families

ilovepickles @ 2011-01-17

This is a book that is easy reading but packs a punch. Lets you open your mind to the "whys" one does certian things.

Not a very good book

Meredith L. Mangum @ 2007-01-09

Unless you are a child of an alcoholic or grew up in this type of environment, I would not recommend this book. There are other types of dysfunctional families but they are not discussed in as much detail as alcoholics.
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