Adolescents and substance abuse: exploring the effects of substance abuse on care giving and family well-being in Mitchell’s Plain
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Substance abuse has become a serious global problem affecting individuals, families and communities. The effects of substance abuse devastate both the user and their families. This study aimed to describe the adverse effects that substance abuse has on the levels of care giving and well-being of families. The study explored family members perceptions of the ways in which an adolescent’s substance abuse affects family care giving and well-being. The study was conducted within a qualitative approach in order to gather an in depth understanding of the family’s experiences. Furthermore, the study was aligned with Family Systems and Bowens Family Theories, which served as reference points to allow the researcher to discern how substance abuse influences family roles, dynamics and functioning. The researcher used the case study design which focused on an issue of concern (such as adolescent substance abuse) and thus selected one case to elucidate the issue i.e. a single case study. The case would be the family members of substance abusing adolescents in Mitchells Plain. The population of interest were the parents and siblings of adolescents who abused substances. Purposive sampling was used to select families with participants who had the specific qualities and experiences needed for the study. The study sample consisted of 12 participants, seven parents (mothers) and five siblings. The participants were female which corresponds with literature, as females are perceived as more willing to share and speak about their experiences. Individual semi-structured interviews were used for data collection through the use of interview schedules. Data verification methods ensured credibility (member checking), transferability (using thick, rich descriptions), dependability (an inquiry audit), and confirmability (using researcher reflexivity). The data was analysed in the form of qualitative thematic analysis achieving data reduction by seeking themes, sub-themes and categories of data. Four themes emerged from the findings, namely, (1) parents/sibling reactions to discovering the substance abuse, (2) the effects of substance abuse on the parents/siblings living with a substance abuser, (3) effects on family communication, and (4) measures used to assist the substance abuser. Each theme was further delineated into 12 sub-themes and 23 categories which were based on both predefined and emergent codes. Permission to conduct this study was obtained from the university’s Faculty of Community and Health Sciences Ethics Committee by its Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (HSSREC); and by the Department of Social Development’s Research Ethics Committee. Ethics compliance was assured through confidentiality and privacy, securing and handling of confidential information, and debriefing opportunities to ensure that emotional harm is minimised together with sensitive interviewing techniques.