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Vulnerable parenting among mothers with substance abuse in their family of origin: a cross-sectional comparative study of mothers in an infant and toddler program

Journal article
Authors E. Tedgård
Maria Råstam
Published in SpringerPlus
Volume 5
Issue 1
ISSN 2193-1801
Publication year 2016
Published at Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Language en
Keywords ADHD, Depression, Family of origin, Parenting, Substance abuse
Subject categories Pediatrics, Psychiatry


Objective: To investigate whether women raised in a family with substance abuse constitute a particularly vulnerable group of patients in an infant psychiatry setting and to identify the risk factors of suspected parental malfunctioning in women referred to treatment in an infant and toddler intervention program. Background: A history of family substance abuse can severely disrupt the caretaking abilities of parents in ways that can have far-reaching consequences, and children growing up with insufficient parental care may incorporate this deficiency into their own parental behavior. Methods: In total, 126 mothers completed self-report questionnaires assessing their substance abuse and health problems as well as problems in their family of origin. The index group was defined as women who reported substance abuse in their family of origin (n = 35). The comparison group was defined as women who denied substance abuse in their family of origin (n = 91). Results: Symptoms of depression and anxiety were overrepresented in the total group of mothers compared with the Swedish norm. The index group had experienced parental divorce and traumatic life events more often and reported earlier substance abuse of their own. They had significantly more depression and ADHD symptoms and were more often single parents. All these factors can have a negative influence, separately or in combination, on the ability to practice sensitive parenting. Conclusions: Female offspring of substance-abusing parents are an especially vulnerable group of patients. To prevent the intergenerational transmission of alcohol and drug abuse, it is important to identify parents with specific needs and to administer targeted treatment and support at primary health care centers and child psychiatric clinics. © 2016, The Author(s).

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