Prevention Science

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 139–149 | Cite as

Preventing Early Child Maltreatment: Implications from a Longitudinal Study of Maternal Abuse History, Substance Use Problems, and Offspring Victimization

  • Karen AppleyardEmail author
  • Lisa J. Berlin
  • Katherine D. Rosanbalm
  • Kenneth A. Dodge


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.


Child maltreatment Substance abuse Intergenerational processes 



This research was supported by NIMH K01MH70378 awarded to Lisa Berlin, NIDA P20DA017589 and NIDA P30DA023026 awarded to the Duke University Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center, NIDA K05 DA015226 awarded to Kenneth Dodge, and a grant from The Duke Endowment awarded to Kenneth Dodge. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. We thank Chongming Yang and Antonio Morgan Lopez for assistance with statistical analysis and for feedback on an earlier draft of the paper. We also thank Rebecca Dunning and Claire Osgood for assistance with data management, and Jamilah Taylor for assistance with manuscript preparation.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Appleyard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lisa J. Berlin
    • 2
  • Katherine D. Rosanbalm
    • 2
  • Kenneth A. Dodge
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Child and Family HealthDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Center for Child and Family PolicyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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