Fragile functionality: The experience of immigrant young adults in Israel who grew up with a parent addicted to alcohol

Daria Danilov, Sophie D. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies have highlighted the emotional, social and behavioral effects for children growing up with a parent addicted to alcohol. The current study enhances the current literature in two major ways. Firstly, it focuses on a unique group of young people, children of immigrant parents who face simultaneous challenges related to immigration, as well as an addicted parent. Secondly, it aims to enrich the literature by understanding the subjective experience of these young people, today adults, as well as the ways in which they coped with the challenges they encountered. In this phenomenological qualitative study, 15 immigrant young adults from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) in Israel, who grew up with at least one parent who became addicted to alcohol after immigration, were asked about their experiences growing up. The thematic analysis identified four themes: 1) The immigration experience; 2) Living in the shadow of a drunk parent; 3) Coping mechanisms and 4) The current impact of childhood experiences. The analysis highlighted the way in which two environment stressors – immigration and an alcohol abusing parent- intertwine on multiple levels to shape the young person's experience. It also highlighted the duality of the young people's experience, which we have termed “fragile functionality”: young people who, on the surface, function, take on parental roles, succeed at school and other developmental tasks and yet hold within them intense feelings of anxiety, fear, and chaos, feelings which they are terrified will overwhelm and topple their fragile emotional balance. An understanding of this duality can be critical for those working with immigrant families, whether social workers, teachers or therapists.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107062
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Sep 2023

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© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


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