Familial Experiences of Parental Substance Misuse

  • Jessica Allen-Summers

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Parental substance misuse affects approximately two million families in the UK. Of these, the individual stories and experiences of the families are rarely heard. These stories can contribute towards a rich picture of the lived experiences of those affected by substance misuse. This could help in developing a guiding framework for understanding the impact that substance misuse can have upon family life. In Paper 1, a meta-ethnographic evaluative systematic literature review (SLR) sought to identify features of the lived experiences of children growing up in families with parental substance misuse. Seven qualitative papers, published between 2003 and 2019 were identified based upon methodological quality, appropriateness and relevance to the research question. The SLR identified themes around the significant emotional consequences associated with addiction, living within chaotic households and positive and negative accounts of adult support. In Paper 2, an empirical investigation used semi-structured interviews to elicit the stories of four adult participants who have been affected by substance misuse in different ways. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse their accounts and draw comparisons across the stories to build an understanding of how parental substance misuse impacts upon family life. The investigation highlighted the concepts of unacknowledged difficulties, agency, cascading chaos across the lifespan, putting others before yourself and defining and creating the mother figure. Reflections around children’s services professionals’ roles in identifying and supporting these children and their families are discussed. In Paper 3, links to theory and practice and implications for future research are considered both locally and nationally. A dissemination strategy for sharing findings with relevant stakeholders, including the academic community, charities and children’s services professionals is proposed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bond (Supervisor) & Catherine Kelly (Supervisor)


  • interpretive phenomenological analysis
  • substance misuse
  • meta ethnography
  • trauma
  • psychology

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