How Do Mothers Feel When Their Child Struggles with Addiction?

mother with an addicted childThe maternal bond is particularly unique, as previous research has shown us for years now that the way mothers bond with their babies (whether biologically or adopted) can have an effect on that child’s relational abilities with others up to decades later. While times have changed, mothers are still viewed as more nurturing to their child – and in American society, the maternal connection typically continues well into adulthood. It is throughout the middle and high school years that adolescents find themselves creating their own identities and paving their own path, but when addiction is involved, however, it becomes a different situation – how do mothers deal when their adolescent is abusing substances?

It’s certainly devastating to find out this type of situation and many mothers may find themselves wondering where to go next. In 2015, researchers published a study in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction to find out exactly what stressors mothers face when this situation arises – and how these stressors influenced their overall sense of wellbeing. They found several key themes from mothers’ narratives as they’ve witnessed their child go through addiction, such as:

  • Adolescent misconduct: many mothers reported that as their adolescent was struggling with addiction, they also acted out in many ways – this ultimately led to the mother’s experience of worry, anxiety, helplessness and shame
  • Family conflict: unhappiness and anger were reported as mothers experienced family conflict with their adolescent’s addiction. Some mothers also reported getting into arguments with their spouse over who was to blame for their child’s addiction.
  • Individual failure: all mothers interviewed expressed the fact that they felt guilty for their child’s addiction. One mother specifically stated, “I’m saying maybe I never taught Winston like uhm, ‘see what your brother is doing, don’t follow his footsteps’ you know?”

Some of the mothers expressed financial burdens as their child had damaged property or stolen things. Ultimately, it’s clear that mothers go through a lot of unique challenges as they witness their child navigate addiction and recovery. If you are a mother going through this yourself, know that you’re not alone. Seek help for your child and find a support group for yourself as well – it’s time to heal and move forward.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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