Effects of Maternal Substance Abuse on Children

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Effectsof Maternal Substance Abuse on Children

Effectsof Maternal Substance Abuse on Children

Inthe United States, an estimated 12% of children grow up with eitherparents or one who is dependent on or abused drugs. For over 400, 000infants, substance exposure begins at an early age. State and localresearch estimate prenatal substance abuse to be over 30% [CITATION Nat14 l 1033 ].

Maternalsubstance abuse has been identified as one of the risk factors forchild maltreatment, which in turn leads to child welfare involvement.Children with a mother who abuses drugs are more likely to bemistreated or ignored as compared to children in other households.Research has proved maternal substance abuse to be among the five keyfactors used to evaluate reports to child service, with regards toabuse and neglects. If such a claim is substantiated, children withsubstance abusing parents are sheltered in an in-out-of home carefacility. Such kids end up staying in these facilities longer thanany other kids. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and ReportingSystem, reports that maternal substance abuse is a leading cause forchild’s removal from the home, especially coupled with neglect [ CITATION Joh15 l 1033 ].

Maternalsubstance abuse can affect the wellbeing of children or adolescent invarious ways. For example, an infant who receives less care andattention from a substance-abusing mother may suffer from attachmentissues which may affect his or her emotional development. Adolescentswith parents who are abusing drugs may experience maltreatment,neglect and this may lead to substance and drug abuse as a copingmechanism. Also, children with addicted parents may experience traumaand its effects including difficulties in concentration, difficultiesin controlling emotional responses, stress and difficulty in formingtrusting relationships [ CITATION Mic14 l 1033 ]. Other effectsof maternal substance abuse on children include:

  • Poor emotional, cognitive and social development.

  • Trauma, anxiety, depression.

  • Physical and health issues

Dependingon the state, maternal incarceration may be punishment handed down tosubstance mothers. Many states have enacted laws and regulations thataddress the aspect of maternal substance abuse and its effects onchildren. Many states address the issue of exposing children toillegal drugs and substances in their criminal statutes. Federallaws, specifically the Child Abuse and Treatment Act, addresses thisissue of, the effects maternal substance abuse on children.

Whilematernal substance abuse has been a major issue in this country,various agencies and stakeholders have come up with promisingapproaches and programs to address it. Some of the promisinginitiatives include: Promoting protective factors such as socialconnections, early identification of at-risk families, priory andeasy access to treatment for addicted mothers, Gender specifictreatment tailored to meet women’s needs, share family care and soon [ CITATION Bru14 l 1033 ].


Bruce Carruth, P. J. (2014). Preschoolers and Substance Abuse: Strategies for Prevention and Intervention. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge.

John S. Wodarski, M. J. (2015). Evidence-Informed Assessment and Practice in Child Welfare. New York: Springer.

National Research Council, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Child Maltreatment Research, Policy, and Practice. (2014). New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Reiter, M. D. (2014). Substance Abuse and the Family. New York: Taylor &amp Francis.