Alternative Families in Recovery

Alternative Families in Recovery: Fictive Kin Relationships Among Residents of Sober Living Homes

Kevin C. Heslin, Alison B. Hamilton, Trudy K. Singzon, James L. Smith and Nancy Lois Ruth Anderson

Sober living homes are group residences for people attempting to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs in a mutually supportive setting. Residents typically develop strong psychological and economic ties and have been referred to as “alternative families,” thus evoking the anthropological concept of fictive kinship.

We analyzed data from seven focus groups with sober living home residents to assess the prevalence and functions of fictive kinship in these settings. Results suggest that residents created kinship by exchanging various types of support, and by incorporating other residents into existing family relationships, particularly in homes where there were children.

Residents perceived fictive kin as more supportive than actual kin, encouraging them toward greater individuation, in contrast with family backgrounds that were sometimes described as stifling. These accounts of the therapeutic qualities of fictive kin in sober living homes could inform the work of fair housing advocates and other community stakeholders.

Heslin KC, Hamilton AB, Singzon T, Smith J, Anderson NLR. Alternative families in recovery: Fictive kin relations among residents of sober living homes, Qualitative Health Research, October 2010.

Abstract and article can be found here.