Intergenerational Patterns, Parenting, and FASD

A paper published in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing by Suzanne Johnston and Joyceen Boyle (based on Johnston’s PhD work) explores the experiences and strengths of Aboriginal mothers raising children affected by FASD.

At a practical level, this ethnographic study aims to demonstrate what it is like for mothers to raise teenagers who have FASD, what their struggles are, how they meet challenges, what is helpful, and what is not.

The paper also explores a range of issues using a postcolonial framework (for more on this, see earlier post Postcolonial Theory for Beginners, September 1, 2010). This perspective allows the study authors to explore intergenerational patterns related to parenting and FASD. The authors connect alcohol misuse during pregnancy to colonial pressures and effects that have continued to exist after seven generations.

“…the root causes are undoubtedly related to the historical and collective emotional injury Aboriginal peoples have experienced as a result of colonialism. This injury manifests itself in various behaviors, including the abuse of alcohol, which leads to FASD, among other problems. According to the [study] participants, they have ignored and suppressed the trauma associated with FASD because there has been little support for dealing with associated feelings that remain unresolved and passed down through generations.

For example, individuals pass on unhealthy ways of behaving or coping that they use to protect themselves from their pain and trauma, such as abusing alcohol or drugs; these behaviors are modeled for their children, sometimes those involved even being aware of these dynamics.” (p. 63)

The women interviewed in this study describe feelings of blame and shame and experiences of marginalization in their lives. Yet, this study clearly works towards debunking stereotypes by demonstrating the adaptability and increasing strength of Aboriginal mothers caring for adolescents with FASD.

For more on this topic, see earlier posts:


 Johnston, S. and Boyle, J.S. (2013). Northern British Columbian Aboriginal Mothers: Raising Adolescents With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 24(1):60-7. DOI:10.1177/1043659612452006

Johnston, M.J. (2008). Northern British Columbia Aboriginal Mothers: Raising Adolescents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from The University of Arizona – College of Nursing.