Oral or Poster Presentation
Concurrent Session 3C - Healthy Life Trajectories: Indigenous Health & Interprofessional Practice
Introduction: Parents in recovery from addiction can have unique parenting deficits, leaving their children at increased risk of developmental and psychological problems and addictions of their own. Current interventions for pregnant women with addictions focus on substance avoidance and infant-care, but do not provide parenting support beyond the first year. Parenting deficits do not resolve with substance abstinence alone. Objective: To explore the lived parenting-experiences of parents in recovery from addiction, to inform the development of a novel parenting support intervention.
Methods: Our study was a qualitative thematic analysis design. We conducted and recorded in-depth individual interviews with Albertan parents who self-identified as being in recovery from substance addiction, via snowball sampling initiated by patient-advisors (2 mothers in recovery) who were members of our research team. We analyzed verbatim interview transcripts using emergent thematic analysis and constant comparison, wherein concepts are highlighted and grouped into categories until 3-5 overarching themes emerge.
Results: Six mothers and 2 fathers (N=8) at various stages of recovery completed interviews and member-checking. Five themes emerged: The addict Brain; Shame of addiction and previous consequences; Boundaries; Connection; and Access to resources. Both self-identified and unidentified parenting deficits were evident in parent narratives. Parents indicated a high level of vigilance for child-behaviour perceived as indicative of the child’s “addict brain”. Parents showed deficits in recognition of psychological warning signs, and the knowledge and skills necessary to intervene and support their children. Parents avoided engaging with formal systems (i.e. social work, family services) for parenting support due to negative past experiences and consequent shame.
Conclusion: Targeted supports for parenting in recovery should include flexible, remote-access to parent education on normative child development and psychological warning signs, and a broad spectrum of age-appropriate strategies to address them. Parents would benefit from directed guidance on developing healthy boundaries, and fostering parent-child emotional connections.