Experiences of mothering drug-dependent youth: influences on occupational performance patterns

Lisa Wegner, TeriLee Arend, Raagiema Bassadien, Zulfa Bismath, Lauren Cross


Substance use by youth in South Africa is a serious problem. The prevalence of substance use and the influence on individuals has been well researched; however, little is known about the experiences of mothers of drug-dependent youth. In this study, a qualitative approach was used to explore how the occupational performance patterns (roles, rituals, routines and habits) of mothers were influenced by the addictive behaviours of their drug-dependent, young adult children. The participants comprised six mothers of youth who were in-patients at a drug rehabilitation centre in Cape Town. The social worker and the occupational therapist at the centre were key informants. Data was gathered through individual interviews with the key informants and two focus groups with the mothers. Five themes emerged from the thematic analysis of the data: (1) “They take everything” (2) “The peace keeper” (3) “I can’t take it anymore” (4) Role plays of mothers (5) “We also still need a life”. The study contributes to the knowledge base of occupational science by providing insight into the occupational challenges experienced by mothers of drug-dependent youth. There is a need for interventions that support and promote the wellbeing of mothers such as these.


Key Words: Addictive behaviours, mothering, occupational performance patterns, substance use.

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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