Mothering with Addictions: Examining the Interplay Among Substance Misuse, Parenting, and Environmental Processes
The symposium begins with a qualitative study assessing experiences and treatment needs of pregnant and postpartum women with SUDs to inform the development of a perinatal intervention for mothers and infants. Findings identified issues (e.g. shame, fear, desire to mother) that both restricted and enhanced the women’s use of substance abuse treatment and highlighted important problems to address in a parent-child intervention. The second study utilized quantitative data to examine perceived parenting efficacy and satisfaction of mothers in SUD treatment along with focus group data to understand the role of children. With parenting efficacy rated highly and satisfaction low, mothers appeared different from normative samples. Additionally, children motivated women’s recovery as they served as emotional and sobriety supports, suggesting that relationships with children may facilitate recovery. The final study used the Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI, Zeanah, et al., 1986) to examine opioid dependent mothers’ internal representations of their child. The WMCI examines the mother’s experience with, perceptions of, and emotional responses to her child. Findings showed that participants were at high-risk for problematic representations of their children, suggesting that mothers with SUDs would benefit from parenting interventions that improve their connection with and characterizations of their child rather than ones just focused on reducing negative parenting behaviors.
The studies presented in this symposium highlight the importance of social work parenting interventions that address the true complexity of the person in environment by attending to addictive disorders, familial relationships, and societal processes. The interplay of these domains and their contribution to feelings of shame, isolation, maternal competence and satisfaction, and maternal representations of the child emerge as essential in the collective findings of these studies. Taken together, we better understand the disservice of a narrow focus of treatment for mothers with SUDs. More importantly, revealing the nuances involved in mothering in the context of addiction necessitates an examination of current parenting interventions, as well as thoughtful consideration of the development of future treatments.