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Maternal Substance Abuse and the Mother-Child Relationship in Late Childhood

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Dated: 2021
Date Published

This study examined the relationship between maternal substance abuse and various aspects of the mother-child relationship in late childhood while accounting for mental health and comorbid substance abuse and mental health among a predominantly racial minority sample.


Using 369 mother-child dyads from the Rochester Intergenerational Study (64 percent Black, 17 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent mixed race/ethnicity), multilevel generalized linear models examined the effects of a maternal substance abuse history, a history of clinical depression, and comorbid substance abuse and depression histories on both maternal and child reports of five aspects of the mother-child relationship (i.e. warmth, consistent discipline, maternal knowledge, involvement, and conflict). The study found that a maternal substance-abuse history alone was unrelated to each aspect of the mother-child relationship as perceived by the mother or child, except for child perceptions of maternal knowledge of behavior. Alternatively, a history of depression or comorbid histories of substance abuse and depression was negatively related to warmth, consistent discipline, involvement, and conflict, but only as perceived by the mother. This study reinforces the need for integrated treatment programs for women with substance use problems, particularly programs that incorporate mental health and parenting components. Moreover, it highlights specific targets for intervention that can reduce subsequent maternal substance abuse and improve offspring outcomes. The divergence in observed effects across reporter also suggests that future research should use multiple reporters to examine the interpersonal consequences associated with maternal substance abuse. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021