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21-09-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 11/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 11/2020

A Qualitative Exploration of Mother-Child Relationships in Mothers with Histories of Substance Use and Street-Level Prostitution

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 11/2020
Aaron Murnan, Eugene Holowacz
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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Most women engaged in street-level prostitution have children who have been voluntarily or involuntarily removed from their custody. Currently the literature presents information summarizing intergenerational patterns of maltreatment that culminate in loss of custody, while acknowledging women and children maintain relationships despite new custodial agreements. However, few studies have explored the current state of these mother-child relationships and no studies to date have sought to identify family-level intervention targets that may promote improved mother-child relationships or individual outcomes among this vulnerable population. To address this gap in the literature, this study recruited fifteen mothers who report street-level prostitution (ages 20-53) and substance use treatment to participate in qualitative interviews exploring the histories and current states of their relationships with their children. An inductive content analysis was utilized to analyze the interview data and identify themes within participant responses. In line with prior studies, participants reported past maltreatment of their children and loss of custody. However, findings also illuminate relational strengths and barriers women experienced to maintaining and rebuilding relationships with their children following substance use treatment. This study expands our understanding of these mother-child relationships beyond characterizations of maltreatment and illuminates areas of consideration for future research as well as possible clinical implications and consideration for intervention efforts among this population.

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