The Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Perceived Family Well-Being in a Selected Rural Area in South Africa


  • Zanelle Frans BADISA, Paarl South Africa
  • Glynnis Dykes University of the Western Cape image/svg+xml
  • Shernaaz Carelse University of the Western Cape image/svg+xml



children, family well-being, parenting, rural, substance abuse


In this study, we focused on the effects of parental substance abuse on family well-being in a selected rural area in the Western Cape province of South Africa, because of the lack of research in this community. The farm workers in this community were paid partially with alcohol, which is historically associated with the tot system. In this study, we used a qualitative approach to conduct semi-structured individual interviews with six known substance-abusing parents and six family members of substance-abusing parents. Purposive and snowball sampling were used to recruit the participants from farms in the rural community. The themes centred on the effects of parental substance use on intimate relationships, parenting, children and family functioning. The findings confirm that parental substance abuse in the selected rural area seemed no different to the effects in an urban setting. We therefore suggest that the sociocultural setting of the rural area underscore the ways in which these effects play out. This is because rural settings make the effects substantially more significant with regard to available resources, geographic distances, the enduring effects of the tot system, and norms regarding alcohol, which feed into risk factors. We recommend that a substance abuse framework redress the obstacles which influence the kinds of support and resources that people have access to and partnerships with farm owners for multilevel and appropriate services. We also recommend that the existing policies be amended to focus more strongly on rural areas.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Zanelle Frans, BADISA, Paarl South Africa

Ms Zanelle Frans is a child protection social worker at BADISA Paarl, South Africa. She completed her social work degree in 2015 and her Master’s degree in social work in 2020. She has been a practicing social worker for the past 6 years. Her special interest is in child abuse, child neglect and substance abuse.

Glynnis Dykes, University of the Western Cape

Dr Glynnis Dykes is a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Work at the University of the Western Cape. She completed her PhD in social work learning and teaching at the University of Stellenbosch. She is published in learning and teaching and the adverse childhood experiences of social work students, and specifically the effects on how students are able to learn within their individual contexts and own personal experiences. Her research interests include family well-being and parenting, and youth in gangs; especially the learning and teaching of these topics in social work which are context-driven.

Shernaaz Carelse, University of the Western Cape

Dr Shernaaz Carelse is a lecturer in the Department of Social Work at the University of the Western Cape. She has a PhD in social work substance abuse services provided by non-profit organisations to adult methamphetamine users. She has publications in substance use, learning and teaching in social work, spirituality in social work, and child and family wellbeing. Her research interests are substance abuse, child and family wellbeing, child and youth care, learning and teaching in social work, and spirituality in social work practice. 


Adams, D., S. Meyers, and R. Beidas. 2016. “The Relationship Between Financial Strain, Perceived Stress, Psychological Symptoms and Academic and Social Integration in Undergraduate Students.” Journal of American College Health 65 (5): 362–70. DOI:

Babbie, E. 2016. The Basics of Social Research. 7th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Böning, A., and S. Ferreira. 2013. “An Analysis of, and Different Approach to, Challenges in Foster Care Practice in South Africa.” Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk 49 (4): 519–69. DOI:

Botha, F., and F. Booysen. 2013. “Family Functioning and Life Satisfaction and Happiness in South African Households.” Social Indicators Research 119 (1): 163–82. DOI:

Boyatzis, R. 1998. Transforming Qualitative Information: Thematic Analysis and Code Development. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Brumby, S., A. Kennedy, and A. Chandrasekara. 2013. “Alcohol Consumption, Obesity and Psychological Distress in Farming Communities: An Australian Study.” Journal of Rural Health 29 (3): 311–19. DOI:

Choi, K., M. Watt, D. Skinner, S. Kalichman, and K. Sikkema. 2015. “‘Wine You Get Every Day, but a Child You Can’t Replace’: The Perceived Impact of Parental Drinking on Child Outcomes in a South African Township.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 27 (3): 173–87. DOI:

Cloete, L. G., and E. L. Ramugondo. 2015. “‘I Drink’: Mothers’ Alcohol Consumption as Both Individualised and Imposed Occupation.” South African Journal of Occupational Therapy 45 (1): 34–40. DOI:

Cottee, G., and N. Roman. 2014. “Perceptions of Parental Practices which Place Children at Risk for Abuse and Neglect.” Child Abuse Research: A South African Journal 15 (2): 26–34.

Crane, C., R. Schlauch, M. Hawes, and D. Easton. 2014. “Legal Factors Associated with Change in Alcohol Use and Partner Violence among Offenders.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 47 (1): 151–59. DOI:

Creswell, J. 2014. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Cubbins, L., D. Kasprzyk, D. Montano, L. Jordan, and G. Woelk. 2012. “Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Rural Zimbabwean Adults: A Test of a Community-Level Intervention.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 124 (3): 33–339. DOI:

Cucciare, M., and C. Scarbrough. 2018. “Opportunities for Identifying and Addressing Unhealthy Substance Use in Rural Communities: A Commentary on Cucciare et al. (2017).” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 12 : 1–4. DOI:

Daniels, A. 2017. “Exploring Experiences of Adult Children of Perceived Problem Drinkers in a Low-Income Community in the Western Cape.” Master’s thesis, University of the Western Cape.

Denscombe, M. 2014. The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects. 5th ed. Open University Press.

Duggan, A., and B. Molineux. 2013. “The Reciprocal Influence of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Family Members’ Communication.” In The Routledge Handbook of Family Communication, edited by A. Vangelisti. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Dykes, G. 2010. “Addiction.” In Introduction to Social Work, edited by L. Nicholas, J. Rautenbach and M. Maistry. Cape Town: Juta.

Dykes, G. 2014. “An Inquiry Into the Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Teaching and Learning in Social Work.” PhD thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Ellington, A. 2011. “The Role of Family Time on a Young Child’s Overall Development.” Master’s thesis, University of Alabama.

Engelhardt, J. 2012. “The Developmental Implications of Parentification: Effects on Childhood Attachment.” Graduate Student Journal of Psychology 14 (1): 45–52.

Freisthler, B., M. Johnson-Motoyama, and N. J. Kepple. 2014. “Inadequate Child Supervision: The Role of Alcohol Outlet Density, Parent Drinking Behaviors, and Social Support.” Children and Youth Services Review 43: 75–84. DOI:

Galvin, K., D. Braithwaite, P. Schrodt, and C. Bylund. 2018. Family Communication: Cohesion and Change. 9th ed. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Gossage, J., C. Snell, C. Parry, A. Marais, R. Barnard, M. de Vries, J. Blankenship, S. Seedat, J. Hasken, and P. May. 2014. “Alcohol Use, Working Conditions, Job Benefits and the Legacy of the Dop System among Farm Workers in the Western Cape Province South Africa: Hope Despite High Levels of Risky Drinking.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11 (7): 7406–24. DOI:

Habib, C., J. Toumbourou, M. Mcritchie, J. Williams, P. Kremer, D. Mckenzie, and R. Catalano. 2014. “Prevalence and Community Variation in Harmful Levels of Family Conflict Witnessed by Children: Implications for Prevention.” Prevention Science 15 (5): 757–66. DOI:

Haefele, B., and M. Ovens. 2013. “Effect of the Substance Related Disorder on Family Dynamics and Subsequent Child Abuse.” Child Abuse Research in South Africa 14 (2): 26–36.

Härkönen, J., F. Bernardi, and D. Boertien. 2017. “Family Dynamics and Child Outcomes: An Overview of Research and Open Questions.” European Journal of Population 33 (2): 163–84. DOI:

Hooper, L., K. Doehler, P. Jankowski, and S. Tomek. 2012. “Patterns of Self-Reported Alcohol Use, Depressive Symptoms, and Body Mass Index in a Family Sample: The Buffering Effects of Parentification.” Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families 20 (2): 164–78. DOI:

Hughes, J. 2014. “Parental Substance Abuse and Child Neglect: Findings from a Family Treatment Drug Court.” PhD thesis, University of California.

Jackson, S. 2012. “Coping Methods: Primary Caregivers of Adults Who Are Dependent on Illegal Substances.” Master’s thesis, University of the Western Cape.

Jankowski, P., and L. Hooper. 2014. “Parentification and Alcohol Use: Conditional Effects of Religious Service Attendance.” Counselling and Values 59 (1): 174–91. DOI:

Järvinen, M. 2013. “Understanding Addiction: Adult Children of Alcoholics Describing Their Parents’ Drinking Problems.” Journal of Family Issues 20 (10): 1–21. DOI:

Kühn, J. 2016. “The Functioning of Nuclear Families Affected by Alcohol Abuse of a Father: The Views of Social Workers. Master’s thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Kumpfer, K. L. 2014. “Family-Based Interventions for the Prevention of Substance Abuse and Other Impulse Control Disorders in Girls.” International Scholarly Research Notices 1–23. DOI:

Lander, L., J. Howsare, and M. Byrne. 2013. “The Impact of Substance Use Disorder on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice.” Social Work Public Health 28 (3–3): 194–205. DOI:

Lesch, E., and A. R. Adams. 2016. “Couples Living with and around Alcohol Abuse: A Study of a Farmworker Community in the Cape Winelands, South Africa.” Social Sciences & Medicine 156: 167–74. DOI:

Lippold, M., K. Davis, K. Lawson, and S. McHale. 2016. “Day-to-Day Consistency in Positive Parent–Child Interactions and Youth Well-Being.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 25 (12): 3584–92. DOI:

Louw, D., and A. Louw. 2009. Adult Development and Ageing. Bloemfontein: University of the Free State, Psychology Publications.

Lubbe, M., C. van Walbeek, and N. Vellios. 2017. “The Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Its Impact on a Child’s Classroom Performance: A Case Study of a Rural South African School.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14 (896): 1–10. DOI:

MacMillan, H., M. Tanaka, E. Dukua, T. Vaillancourt, and M. Boyle. 2013. “Child Physical and Sexual Abuse in a Community Sample of Young Adults: Results from the Ontario Child Health Study.” Child Abuse and Neglect 37 (1): 14–21. DOI:

Matshabane, O. 2016. “Exploring the Influence of Role Models on the Career Development Process of School-Going Adolescents from a Low-Income Community in South Africa.” Master’s thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Mattoo, S., N. Nebhinani, B. Kumar, D. Basu, and P. Kulhara. 2013. “Family Burden with Substance Dependence: A Study from India.” Indian Journal of Medical Research 137 (4): 704–11.

Marinus, D. R. 2015. “Adolescents’ Experiences and Coping Strategies with Parental Substance Addiction Within a Rural Farming Community: A Social Work Perspective.” Master’s thesis, University of South Africa.

Miles, A. 2010. “Substance Use, Parenting Stress and Child Maltreatment: Exploring These Relationships in a Sample of At Risk Mothers.” Master’s thesis, University of Cape Town.

Nalwadda, O., S. Rathod, J. Nakku, C. Lund, M. Prince, and F. Kigozi. 2018. “Alcohol Use in a Rural District in Uganda: Findings from Community-Based and Facility-Based Cross-Sectional Studies.” International Journal of Mental Health Systems 12 (12): 1–10. DOI:

Neger, E. N., and R.J. Prinz. 2015. “Interventions to Address Parenting and Parental Substance Abuse: Conceptual and Methodological Considerations.” Clinical Psychology Review 39: 71–82. DOI:

Ortigue, S., and F. Bianchi-Demicheli. 2011. “Intention, False Beliefs and Delusional Jealousy: Insights into the Right Hemisphere from Neurological Patients and Neuroimaging Studies.” Medical Science Monitor 17 (1): RA1–RA11. DOI:

Parolin, M., A. Simonelli, D. Mapelli, M. Sacco, and P. Cristofalo. 2016. “Parental Substance Abuse as an Early Traumatic Event. Preliminary Findings on Neuropsychological and Personality Functioning in Young Drug Addicts Exposed to Drugs Early.” Frontiers in Psychiatry 16 (7): 887. DOI:

Radebe, N. 2015. “Exploring the Effects of Substance Abuse on the Family in a Selected Ethekwini District.” Master’s thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Ramlagan, S., K. Peltzer, and G. Matseke. 2010. “Epidemiology of Drug Abuse Treatment in South Africa.” South African Journal of Psychiatry 16 (2): 40–49. DOI:

Reiter, M. 2015. Substance Abuse and the Family. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Republic of South Africa. 1998. Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act No. 116 of 1998). Pretoria: Government Printers.

Sandstrom, H., and S. Huerta. 2013. The negative effects of instability on child development: A research synthesis. Washington: Urban Institute.

Sang, J., J. A. Cederbaum, and M. S. Hurlburt. 2014. “Parentification, Substance Use, and Sex among Adolescent Daughters from Ethnic Minority Families: The Moderating Role of Monitoring.” Family Process 53 (2): 252–66. DOI:

Sharma, B., A. Arora, K. Singh, H. Singh, and P. Kaur. 2017. “Drug Abuse: Uncovering the Burden in Rural Punjab.” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care 6 (3): 558–62. DOI:

Setlalentoa, B. M. P., P. T. Pisa, G. N. Thekisho, E. H. Ryke, and D. T. Loots. 2010. “The Social Aspects of Alcohol Misuse/Abuse in South Africa.” South African Journal Clinical Nutrition 23 (3): 11–15. DOI:

Shenton, A. 2004. “Strategies for Ensuring Trustworthiness in Qualitative Research Projects.” Education for Information 22 (2): 63–75. DOI:

Slabbert, I. 2015. “The Role of Substance Abuse in Domestic Violence: A Social Work Perspective.” Journal of Humanities 55 (4): 665–80. DOI:

Slabbert, I., and S. Green. 2013. “Types of Domestic Violence Experienced by Women in Abusive Relationships.” Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk 49 (2): 234–47. DOI:

Stats SA (Statistics South Africa). 2016. South Africa Demographic and Health Survey 2016. Stats SA.

Straussner, S., and C. Fewell. 2011. Children of Substance-Abusing Parents: Dynamics and Treatments. New York: Springer. DOI:

Suikkanen, A., and M. Virtala. 2010. “The Harmful Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children.” Bachelor’s thesis, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Tamutiené, I. 2018. “Alcohol-Related Child Maltreatment: Reports to the Child Rights Protection Service in Kaunas Municipality.” Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 35 (1): 9–23. DOI:

Tedgård, E., M. Råstam, and I. Wirtberg. 2019. “An Upbringing with Substance-Abusing Parents: Experiences of Parentification and Dysfunctional Communication.” Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 36 (3): 223–47. DOI:

Thakore, D. 2013. “Conflict and Conflict Management.” Journal of Business and Management 8 (6): 7–16. DOI:

Tsavoussis, A., S. P. A. Stawicki, N. Stoicea, and T. J. Papadimos. 2014. “Child-Witnessed Domestic Violence and Its Adverse Effects on Brain Development: A Call for Societal Self-Examination and Awareness.” Frontiers in Public Health 2 (178): 1–5. DOI:

Van der Mijl, R. 2017. “The Positive Effects of Parentification: An Exploratory Study among Students.” Psihologijske teme 26 (2): 417–30. DOI:

Walt, L. C., E. Kinoti, and L. A. Jason. 2013. “Industrialization Stresses, Alcohol Abuse and Substance Dependence: Differential Gender Effects in a Kenyan Rural Farming Community.” International Journal of Mental Health Addiction 11 (3): 369–80. DOI:

Wathen, C., and H. MacMillan. 2013. “Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: Impact and Interventions.” Paediatrics & Child Health 18 (8): 419–22. DOI:

Williams, G. 2016. “Slaves, Workers, and Wine: The ‘Dop System’ in the History of the Cape Wine Industry, 1658–1894.” Journal of Southern African Studies 42 (5): 893–90. DOI:

Woolf-King, S., A. Conroy, K. Fritz, M. Johnson, V. Hosegood, H. van Rooyen, L. Darbes, and N. McGrath. 2019. “Alcohol Use and Relationship Quality among South African Couples.” Substance Use Misuse 54 (4): 651–60. DOI:

WHO (World Health Organization). 2014. Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014. Geneva: WHO.

Yaghoubi-Doust, M. 2013. “Reviewing the Association Between the History of Parental Substance Abuse and the Rate of Child Abuse.” Addiction and Health 5 (3–4): 126–33.

Ziaaddini, H., T. Ziaaddini, and N. Nakhaee. 2013. “Pattern and Trend of Substance Abuse in Eastern Rural Iran: A Household Survey in a Rural Community.” Journal of Addiction 1–6. DOI:



How to Cite

Frans, Zanelle, Glynnis Dykes, and Shernaaz Carelse. 2022. “The Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Perceived Family Well-Being in a Selected Rural Area in South Africa”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 34 (2):21 pages.



Received 2021-07-21
Accepted 2022-03-25
Published 2022-08-25