Success Stories

Drinking study garners attention

Three Grand Valley social work students took a look into the romantic relationships of adult daughters of alcoholics and were invited to present their findings at a conference.

The students -- Kelly Snyder, Sarah Blasius and Amy Hayes -- completed a research study titled “Adult Daughters of Alcoholics: Uniqueness in Their Stories.” They submitted the paper to the National Association of Social Workers’ Michigan chapter, and the three presented their findings at the annual conference in East Lansing.

The project was sparked by an assignment in a graduate-level social work research class. Working together, the three came up with the topic and went through the process of getting approval to work with human subjects.

“We all have a shared commitment to working with women who are facing substance abuse issues or who have a family history of substance abuse, so this topic lent it self well to some of our personal interests,” Hayes said.

In the qualitative research study, the team interviewed six women, asking the same questions in a semi-structured format. “Afterwards, we transcribed each interview, and then we went through and analyzed them,” Snyder said. “We coded the transcriptions, looking for patterns across the interviews. From that we identified some of the common themes and ideas that came out of the interviews.”

One of the main findings was that all women interviewed at some point had a relationship with someone who was like the alcoholic parent — either in their drinking habits or behavior characteristics like being angry or overly affectionate. But eventually, they would consciously pick a partner who was different from the alcoholic parent.

“When people differentiated, it was after they had gone through therapy, after they had worked through those issues and they could really consciously realize the effects of the alcoholism,” Snyder said.

Blasius said the project was fulfilling, adding: “This research opportunity really allowed us to explore the journey of what they went through. We discovered the effects of their childhood and how it impacted them, their relationships with their family members and others. It allowed us to take a journey with them.”

The paper allowed the three to take a journey of their own — to give a 90-minute presentation for experienced professionals in the field at the conference in East Lansing. “It’s very much an honor to have been selected,” said Blaisus.

Snyder, Hayes and Blasius all graduated with their master’s degrees in social work in April, but they all said they hope to continue work researching the effects of substance abuse.

Top: Kelly Snyder and Amy Hayes, Bottom: Sarah Blasius

by Brian J. Bowe