Preferred Name

Susan E. Hardman

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

ORCID 0000-0002-5680-680X

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Anne L. Stewart

Robin Anderson

Deborah Kipps-Vaughan

William Whelan


This study examined the impact of parental substance misuse on young adult development and relationships by interviewing young adults about their experience being raised by a parent who misused substances. A qualitative design based on constructivist grounded theory and informed by constructs from attachment theory was used. Participants consisted of 10 young adults, ages 18-26, who endorsed being raised by a parent who misused substances. The interview questions developed for the study were informed by a measure of adult attachment. Analysis of the data included identification of emergent categories/themes as well as a priori constructs from attachment theory (safe haven, secure base, reflective functioning, coregulation). Based on the analysis, the following emergent categories/themes were identified and described: behavior of the parent with substance misuse, feelings/experience of the offspring, acknowledgement of substance misuse, impact on the parent-child relationship, impact on relationships with others, and impact on mental health and identity. A priori attachment constructs were evident in the narratives and provided a useful frame for understanding the impact of parental substance misuse. This study demonstrated how constructs from attachment theory can be applied to better understand the relationship between a parent’s behavior and the impact on attachment security in the child when substance misuse is occurring. Parental absence, lack of attunement to the child’s needs, and inconsistent behavior may contribute to offspring feeling rejected, unknown, and confused, which may impact their sense of attachment security, feelings of worth, and perception of the reliability of others.



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