The impact of alcohol misuse on fathering in Northern Uganda: An ethnographic study of fathers

Christopher J. Mehus, Elizabeth Wieling, Okot Thomas Oloya, Achan Laura, Verena Ertl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Acholi people of northern Uganda experienced decades of conflict. Alcohol misuse is high among northern Ugandan men. This is common in displaced or post-war communities. Because parents are often the most significant and proximal influence in a child’s development, it is important to understand the relationships between parental behavioral health and parenting. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to understand the impact of alcohol misuse on fathering, from fathers’ perspectives. We collected qualitative data from several sources, including in-depth interviews with 19 fathers. Informants identified three ways in which a father can “overdrink”: drinking to drunkenness, spending too much money on alcohol, or spending too much time drinking alcohol. Fathers described the specific ways in which overdrinking impacted each of the three primary roles of a father, which were identified as providing, educating, and creating a stable home. Of the negative effects of overdrinking, a compromised ability to provide for basic needs was described as the most salient. The findings suggest that support for families in this region should include support for father’s substance misuse, as a father’s overdrinking is widely understood to be problematic for the entire family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 29 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by grants from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota and the Center for Personalized Prevention Research at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Mehus was also supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) under National Research Service Award in Primary Medical Care grant number T32HP22239 (PI: Borowsky), Bureau of Health Workforce. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government. This research was supported by vivo international (

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • alcohol misuse
  • displacement
  • fathers
  • parenting
  • war

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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