Social support systems of women offenders who use drugs: A focus on the mother-daughter relationship

S. M. Strauss, G. P. Falkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conceptually, social support among very heavily drug-involved women is complex and multidimensional. This article examines the structure and function of the social support systems of women offenders (N = 100) who used drugs during the last 6 months before entering court-mandated drug-free treatment programs. These systems typically contain about nine supporters, almost equally divided between men and women, and about half of the women's supporters are family members. The women identify parents and partners as their major providers of practical help and advice. They look most to their partners for a sympathetic ear, and to their parents for affirmation of their self-worth. Overall, two-thirds of the women identify their mothers as among their supporters. These mothers are often anxious to do whatever they can to help their daughters stop using drugs. Paradoxically, the assistance many mothers give their daughters in providing money or basic life necessities often enables the daughter's drug use. Although many daughters appreciate their mother's help, there is an element of distrust and control in many of the mother-daughter relationships, and some daughters receive unwanted help from their mothers. Drug treatment providers can benefit from understanding their clients' social support systems, especially the dynamics of important relationships with main pretreatment supporters, such as parents. By gaining this understanding and helping their clients to effectively accept and use social support, treatment providers can assist them in maintaining their recovery when they leave treatment and return to their communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-89
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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