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Substance use communication between looked after young people and formal carers: A qualitative study

Carver, Hannah


Hannah Carver


Background: Good parent-child connectedness, general and substance use specific communication are protective against alcohol, tobacco and drug use during adolescence. Previous research also suggests that general communication with foster and other statutory carers is associated with more positive outcomes, including relationships with caregivers and siblings. However, no studies have examined substance use specific communication between looked after young people and their carers.

Aims: The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of how carers and looked after young people communicate about alcohol, tobacco and drug use and the factors that shape communication, including the use of digital media.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted, using in-depth interviews with 13 looked after young people in foster and residential care; two social workers; six foster carers and eight residential care workers. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and the data were analysed thematically.

Findings: Relationships between carers and young people were crucial and acted as the antecedent to communication. Carers’ role identity influenced their relationships with young people and their approach to and communication about substance use. Shared doing provided a way in which communication about substances could be facilitated in an environment which feels natural. The context in which communication occurred was important, with differences between foster and residential care. Digital media were viewed with caution, as something used to gain information about substances but not as a way of communicating with young people.

Conclusions: The findings have implications for foster carers and residential care staff working with looked after young people, in terms of relationships and communication about substance use. Carers should continue to develop positive relationships with young people, whilst considering the potentially negative effects of conflicts in professional role identity. Techniques such as shared doing and encouraging natural conversations about substance use may help.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 22, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 24, 2020
Keywords Communication, foster care, residential care, relationships, drug use.
Public URL
Award Date 2017-06


Substance use communication between looked after young people and formal carers: A qualitative study (2.2 Mb)

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