Adult Children, Coping, Cortisol, Journaling, Mental Health, Stress, Substance Use



  1. Kim-Godwin, Yeoun Soo RN, PhD


Background: The challenges experienced by mothers supporting an adult child with substance use problems suggest intervention is needed to improve such mothers' psychosocial well-being through adaptive coping.


Aims: This study examined beliefs about journaling as well as changes in stress, cortisol levels, and mental health after a 6-week intervention by mothers whose adult children had substance use problems. In addition, the study explored coping methods used and the experience of writing among these mothers.


Methods: A purposeful sample of 17 mothers completed the pretest and posttest. Participating mothers were asked to make journal entries at least 3 times per week for 6 weeks.


Results: The mothers used diverse adaptive coping methods to manage stress. In particular, they frequently used religious and meaning-focused coping. The mothers perceived journaling as a highly valuable coping method for daily stress. The findings of paired t tests indicated no statistically significant differences in the stress, mental health variables, and cortisol levels between pretest and posttest. However, participants shared the positive experiences of journaling: emotional well-being, stress management, perspective changes, focus, self-regulation, clarity, and gratitude.


Conclusion: The present finding suggests journaling is a practical means to promoting adaptive coping in mothers with adult children who have substance use problems.