Fractured Families: Parental perspectives of the effects of adolescent drug abuse on family life

Debra Jackson
Professor, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Broadway NSW

Kim Usher
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition, James Cook University, Cairns QLD

Louise O'Brien
School of Nursing Family and Community Health and Western Sydney Area Health Service, Cumberland Hospital, Parramatta NSW

PP: 321 - 330


Drug use in young people has serious ramifications for health and well-being of young people and their families and continues to be an area of major concern for health workers. Though the task of dealing with drug-related problems falls on families, particularly parents, very little literature has explored parental experiences of managing drug use within the context of family life. Eighteen parents of drug-abusing young people were recruited into this qualitative study that aimed to develop understandings into the effects of adolescent drug use on family life.

Findings revealed that the experience of having a drug-abusing adolescent family member had a profound effect on other members of the immediate family. Family relationships were fractured and split as a result of the on-going destructive and damaging behaviour of the drug-abusing young person.

Five themes were identified that captured the concept of fractured families. These are: Betrayal and loss of trust: You had to have the doors locked; Abuse, threats and violence: there were holes in the wall; Sibling anger and resentment: Better off now with him gone; Isolated, disgraced and humiliated: You are on your own with it; and, Feeling blamed: You are not a good parent. Implications for practice and further research are drawn from the findings of this paper.


drug abuse, adolescent health, family health, family support, qualitative research

View references


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