Daughters' perspectives on maternal substance abuse: Pledge to be a different kind of mother. A grounded theory study

Anne Murphy, Fordham University


The qualitative study was an exploration of the experiences of racially and culturally diverse young mothers whose mothers abused substances. The purpose was to identify the stressors and factors that contributed to the way these young mothers parent their children today. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 young mothers, ranging in age from 20 to 36 years old, who were drug-free and have custody of their children. They received public assistance during their childhoods. Open, axial and selective themes emerged from a comparative data analysis yielding a substantive grounded theory. The grounded theory was generated from a total of 60 open, 32 axial and 10 selective categories. The substantive theory that emerged is that maternal substance abuse has a significant and unique impact on female children throughout their lifespan, with particular emphasis at the onset of motherhood when the motivation to be a “different kind of mother” becomes their central focus. Although the young mothers expressed ambivalent feelings about their mothers, each expressed the strong desire to parent in a manner very different from what they experienced growing up. The young mothers expressed that they wanted to “be there” for their children as their mothers were never there. They engaged in illegal activities to get money for food and clothes. They were sexually abused. Protecting daughters from sexual abuse is a paramount goal each expressed. They were physically abused when they did not buy their mothers' drugs or when they caught her getting high. The young mothers believe things may have been different if they had been with their fathers. They reported seeing their mothers abused by men. Subsequently, every mother in the present study has a history of relationship abuse with men in their adult lives. Raising sons who “treat women as they would like their mother treated” is a common goal, suggesting that they want to raise sons who do not abuse women. The young mothers in the present study wish to be role models for their children and to raise their children to finish school and “be somebody.”

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Individual & family studies|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Murphy, Anne, "Daughters' perspectives on maternal substance abuse: Pledge to be a different kind of mother. A grounded theory study" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3134444.