Parental Enabling

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Identifying and Addressing Parental Enabling in Substance Use Disorder

What is Parental Enabling?

Parental enabling refers to behaviors by parents that, although often well-intentioned, inadvertently support or perpetuate their child’s substance use and addiction. These behaviors prevent the child from facing the natural consequences of their actions, which can hinder their recovery and development of personal responsibility. Enabling can take many forms, and in families dealing with addiction, it often manifests through specific actions and patterns of interaction.


The Impact of Enabling on Recovery

Research highlights the significant impact of parental enabling on addiction outcomes:

  • Prolonged Addiction: A study published in the journal Substance Abuse found that the earlier parents stop enabling behaviors, the better the outcomes tend to be. Those who continued enabling saw prolonged addiction and longer recovery times.
  • Worse Addiction Outcomes: A review published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse reported that parental enabling is associated with worse addiction outcomes, including longer addiction duration, more relapses, and poorer treatment compliance and recovery. Enabling prevents individuals from fully taking responsibility, which is crucial for recovery.
  • Effective Family-Based Treatment: A study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that family-based treatment programs that address enabling behaviors and teach parents new skills tend to have better outcomes than individual programs that don’t involve the family system. Changing family dynamics through addressing enabling is key.
  • Successful Long-Term Recovery: Research published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found that setting clear boundaries with consequences and allowing natural negative outcomes (with limits) are linked to more successful long-term recovery compared to high levels of parental enabling. Enabling shields individuals from true accountability.


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At DreamLife Recovery, we know that recovery involves more than getting and staying sober. Our comprehensive, evidence-backed treatment methods help you feel in control of your life. You can then build a support system and a path forward.

We are a team of experienced, empathetic staff who help people with substance-use disorders achieve and maintain sobriety. Our therapies provide you with tools to manage your recovery and help you live your best life without drugs or alcohol use.
When you or someone you know is ready to take the first step toward living a healthier life, connect with our team online. You can also call our admissions department at 855-495-0356.

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