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Supporting Families Affected by Substance Use and Domestic Violence

This report is the culmination of work undertaken with two groups of people: (a) young people accessing services for their parents’ substance use and (b) adult family members who run support groups for those affected by a family member's substance use (Family Members Support Providers). The work was funded by Comic Relief and led by the University of Bedfordshire in partnership with Adfam and the Stella Project.

The aims of the research project were:

  • To explore the views and perspectives of family members of substance users on the relationship between alcohol, drugs and domestic abuse
  • To develop practice and policy recommendations based on these findings and the wider literature
  • To establish what support and resources family members need on these issues.
  • Focus groups were held with the young people to establish their views on what constitutes a happy or unhappy relationship and clear themes emerged including:

The importance young people placed on consent and choice; and the intent and motivation behind a person’s actions or behaviour being an important factor in deciding if it contributed to a happy or unhappy relationship.

Young people’s views that people will often drink and use substances together in a relationship and that removing one or the other, or reducing the substance use, can put pressure on the relationship. Importantly they pointed out that getting help for substance problems did not automatically improve intimate relationships.

The interviews held with family member support providers highlighted how family members often access support for an adult child’s substance use. Findings include:

The dominance of child to parent violence rather than, as expected, the dominance of domestic violence, in particular men’s violence towards women.
Abuse and violence by substance using children towards their parents  appeared to mirror the gendered violence from male partners to female partners in that it was usually sons perpetrating violence and abuse towards mothers.

A high tolerance of domestic abuse among the parents they supported, not because of the intoxicated state of their child, but simply because it was their own child who was perpetrating the abuse and this presented additional emotional and practical challenges.

The report also makes key recommendations for practice and policy including a number of important changes and developments for those educating and supporting young people living with parental substance use in terms of relationships and domestic abuse; as well as the need to develop policy and practice frameworks to address child to parent violence and providing resources to family support services to raise awareness about domestic violence.

families substance use and dv report.pdf
Added: February 5, 2015
1.47 MB



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