The Transition to Adulthood in Young People with Experience of Parental Substance Misuse

  • Alexander Byrne

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


Young people (YP) transitioning to adulthood with experience of parental substance misuse (PSM) are an overlooked group. This is partly due to the secrecy and stigma around the topic. Research has demonstrated the impact that PSM can have for many outcomes for children (social, educational and psychological) however young adults have received relatively little attention. The study aims to explore issues YP face in terms of identity, how they make sense of their experiences and how they cope. In this context parental substance misuse refers to alcohol and illegal substances while parental can refer to biological, step and foster parents. A qualitative approach was used to explore the nuance of individual’s accounts and to ease conversations that were anticipated to be sensitive. The ‘Life Grid’ (Parry et al, 1999) and a visual collage making activity (Dowling, McConkey & Sinclair, 2018) was used alongside semi-structured interview questions concerning YP’s transitions and historical experiences. Analysis of the results indicated that young people had complex feelings towards their parents (e.g. worry, shame, anger) and that individuals made sense of their experiences relative to their peers. Additionally, parentification left YP feeling as though they had leapt ahead of their peers and then been left behind. It is recommended that educational psychologists could usefully intervene at multiple levels within individual casework, joint conceptualisations and training of frontline staff.
Date of Award28 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSandra Dowling (Supervisor) & John Franey (Supervisor)

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