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Qualitative Evaluation of a School-Based Support Group for Adolescents With an Addicted Parent

Gance-Cleveland, Bonnie


Background: Adolescents with an addicted parent are at risk for physical, emotional, and social problems. They are particularly at risk for developing substance abuse. School-based support groups have been suggested as a beneficial treatment and prevention strategy.

Objective: To examine the features, critical attributes, processes, and benefits of school-based support groups for adolescents with an addicted parent.

Methods: A qualitative evaluation using the ethnographic method was conducted at two Midwestern suburban high schools.

Results: The study resulted in a comprehensive description of school-based support groups and an outline presenting benefits of participation for adolescents with an addicted parent. The benefits of group participation included increased knowledge, enhanced coping, increased resilience, improved relationships, and improved school performance.

Discussion: Findings from this study suggest that school-based support groups are beneficial to adolescents with addicted parents. Experiential knowledge is the foundation of these self-help groups. School-based support group participation enhanced self-knowledge and led to self-care and self-healing. The school-based support groups expanded the adolescents’ awareness, resulting in their ability to make critical choices that facilitated changes in the dysfunctional pattern. Support group participation empowered youth to make these changes.

Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, RNC, PNP, PhD, is Associate Professor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Endowed Chair, Nursing, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Little Rock.

Accepted for publication May 17, 2004.

Corresponding author: Bonnie Gance-Cleveland, RNC, PNP, PhD; Arkansas Children's Hospital, 800 Marshall Street, Slot 807, Little Rock, AK 72202 (e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.