Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Maria Brann


Millions of children grow up in alcoholic homes. For these children, their lives are changed forever. As a result of being socialized in a home in which at least one parent is an alcoholic, the children suffer with a number of negative consequences. Children of alcoholics (COAs) have cognitive difficulty and often do not excel in scholastic endeavors. It is also difficult for COAs to form lasting relationships with others outside the family. Because they are often socialized in a home in which secrecy is advocated, creating relationships and fully disclosing about experiences proves to be challenging. As a result, COAs often experience lowered levels of relationship trust and satisfaction. Thus, COAs have difficulties forming meaningful relationships in which they can disclose about their experiences and do not, as a consequence, experience the benefits of social support. The present study used a Communication Privacy Management (CPM) Theory framework to understand how COAs control access to their private information. I examined COAs' relationships, what information they reveal, why they reveal the information they do, and to whom information is then revealed. Using qualitative data collection methods, I conducted 20 interviews with COAs who had an alcoholic father or stepfather. Interviews lasted approximately 90 minutes. All interviews were guided by questions grounded in CPM. CPM maintains that individuals own private information. As a result of this ownership, individuals make careful decisions about how to give others access to the information. Private information can thus be thought of as a commodity with individuals granting access. Results of the interviews indicated that COAs (a) developed privacy rules for access based on motivation and context, (b) were socialized in homes in which secrecy is advocated, (c) experienced trigger events that alter their privacy rules, (d) shared information with family and non-family members, (e) told others a set of standby stories, (f) did not have explicit discussions with confidants about what can be done with the information, and (g) did not experience boundary turbulence as a result of sharing. Overall, COAs carefully considered the types of information they revealed to individuals.