Does parental substance use always engender risk for children? Comparing incidence rate ratios of abusive and neglectful behaviors across substance use behavior patterns

Nancy J. Kepple


Parental substance use disorder (SUD) is associated with an added risk for child abuse and neglect, but less is understood about how a range of parental use behaviors is associated with differential maltreatment frequencies. This study used the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW I) to create categories for parental substance use behaviors that are conceptually associated with varying levels of substance-related impairments. The study sample was composed of 2100 parents of children ages 2–17 years. Behavior patterns defined by some form of past year substance use were associated with a higher frequency of physical or emotional abuse compared to non-users. In contrast, only past year SUD was associated with a higher frequency of neglect compared to other categories. In sum, the relationship between substance use and maltreatment frequencies differed for abuse and neglect, suggesting different pathways may be underlying these observed relationships.