Mothers lived experiences and coping responses to adolescents with substance abuse problems : a phenomenological inquiry.
Groenewald, Candice Rule.
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This thesis explored mothers’ experiences of living with an adolescent who has a substance abuse problem; an under-researched topic of inquiry globally and especially in South Africa. Specifically, I was interested in 1) the stresses that the mothers faced as a result of the adolescents’ substance abuse behaviours; 2) how the mothers’ subjective wellbeing was impacted by these stresses; and 3) how the mothers coped with these stresses. To explore these issues, I adopted a qualitative phenomenological approach where five mother-adolescent pairs were invited to participate in 1:1 in-depth interviews using the life-grid (LG) interview approach. The mother-adolescent pairs were recruited from two adolescent substance abuse treatment facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and were interviewed separately. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was conducted on the data using Atlas ti software (versions 5.0 & 7.5.0). This thesis is presented in the form of five research papers. Paper 1 discusses the LG methodology that was used in this study. Paper 2 is concerned with the methodological challenges I encountered in using research diaries as a data gathering approach. Papers 3 and 4 each discusses the primary codes that emerged in my analysis. The mothers’ ‘experiences’ code is discussed in Paper 3 which revealed the several stressful life events that the mothers endured as a result of the adolescents’ substance abuse. These included adolescent misconduct and pilfering, family conflict, financial burdens and feelings of hopelessness, worry, self-blame guilt, shame and signs of depression. The ‘coping’ codes are discussed in Paper 4 which showed that mothers’ used problem-focused and emotion-focused coping in varying combinations of withdrawing, tolerating and engaged coping responses. Understanding the stresses that mothers face and how mothers respond to adolescent substance abuse is imperative for the development of tailored support interventions for mothers required to cope with adolescent substance abuse. This study also evaluated how affected families are represented in three South African policy documents using the Family Impact Lens framework where it was found that these South African policies did not adequately support affected families. These findings are presented in Paper 5. Further implications and recommendations for policy makers, practitioners and researchers are discussed in each of the research papers and in Chapter 4 of this thesis.