A qualitative analysis of sibling communal coping in the context of parental substance use disorder

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Nolan, Haley

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Substance use disorder (SUD) is a massive concern in the United States and has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Children everywhere are growing up in households where one or more family members, oftentimes one or both parents, are managing SUD. How to facilitate the communal coping (CC) process in this environment is of great interest to family communication scholars. The current investigation uses the Theoretical Model of Communal Coping (TMCC; Afifi et al., 2020a) and the Theory of Resilience and Relational Load (TRRL; Afifi et al., 2016) to better understand whether communal coping takes place between siblings who grow up in a household with parental SUD and how it may manifest in this unique relational and contextual environment. Findings indicate that siblings often engage in CC appraisal and action in ways that are prosocial and encourage adjustment, but also engage in CC in ways that may be maladaptive when certain conditions, such as poor relational and communication quality, are present. In addition, the majority of participants reflected on their sibling relationship as a positive factor in their life and in managing the difficult circumstances created by parental SUD. These findings highlight the importance of the sibling relationship in the coping process but also warn against the potential risks of it.


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