Preventing Early Child Maltreatment: Implications from a Longitudinal Study of Maternal Abuse History, Substance Use Problems, and Offspring Victimization
In the interest of improving child maltreatment prevention science, this longitudinal, community based study of 499 mothers and their infants tested the hypothesis that mothers’ childhood history of maltreatment would predict maternal substance use problems, which in turn would predict offspring victimization. Mothers (35% White/non-Latina, 34% Black/non-Latina, 23% Latina, 7% other) were recruited and interviewed during pregnancy, and child protective services records were reviewed for the presence of the participants’ target infants between birth and age 26 months. Mediating pathways were examined through structural equation modeling and tested using the products of the coefficients approach. The mediated pathway from maternal history of sexual abuse to substance use problems to offspring victimization was significant (standardized mediated path [ab] = .07, 95% CI [.02, .14]; effect size = .26), as was the mediated pathway from maternal history of physical abuse to substance use problems to offspring victimization (standardized mediated path [ab] = .05, 95% CI [.01, .11]; effect size = .19). There was no significant mediated pathway from maternal history of neglect. Findings are discussed in terms of specific implications for child maltreatment prevention, including the importance of assessment and early intervention for maternal history of maltreatment and substance use problems, targeting women with maltreatment histories for substance use services, and integrating child welfare and parenting programs with substance use treatment.