Children of substance abusers: Observations and their mothers' reports of childrearing practices

Sarai Ramona Padilla-Rafalsky, Pace University


The widespread use of drugs includes women who are mothers and of childbearing age. A review of the literature shows that women who are substance abusers suffer from depression, low self-esteem, have poor health and nutrition, and histories of family violence and abuse. During pregnancy, addictive women often lack prenatal care. In utero exposure to drugs is associated with multiple postnatal outcomes which include prematurity, low birth weight, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Intelligence testing found that the children scored within the normal range but significantly lower than the children of drug-free controls. Conflicting views on the parenting of mothers who are substance abusers exist. Deprived and poorly nurtured in childhood themselves, they feel inadequate as parents. However, they love their children, are capable of learning developmental issues of childhood, and can respond with sensitivity to their needs. The purpose of this study was to examine the child-rearing attitudes and parental style of addicted mothers and the impact of their drug use, parental attitudes, and demographic variables on their interactions with their children. Forty-four mothers, forty-one drug users and three non-drug users, and nineteen infants participated in the study. Participants attended the Infant and Toddler Schools of the Center for Comprehensive Health Practice, Inc. Subjects completed the demographic sheet and the modified Child-Rearing Practices Report (CRPR). The child data was obtained from the agency and included the scores of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the Checklist for Caregiver-Infant Observation, and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment-Short Form (Home-SF). Generally, greater parental control and less expression of affection were adhered to as values by the participants of the study. Correlations as a function of drug usage and demographic variables suggested that the participants held both sound and inappropriate child-rearing attitudes. Length of treatment and the age of the youngest child emerged as the demographic variables most related to the parental attitude variables. The children scored within the average range of intelligence, however, the range of variation was highly significant.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Mental health|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Padilla-Rafalsky, Sarai Ramona, "Children of substance abusers: Observations and their mothers' reports of childrearing practices" (1993). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9406436.



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