Substance using Mothers Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts: Impact of Parenting Behaviors on Child Behavior Problems


Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common among women with a substance use disorder (SUD). Additionally, a significant number of women substance users have children in their care. While the negative impact of maternal substance use on child outcomes has been documented, little is known about how the co-occurrence of suicidal ideation influences child outcomes. The current study examined the relationship between parenting behaviors and child outcomes in a sample of 183 treatment seeking women with a SUD who had a child in their care. Findings showed that maternal autonomy promotion, maternal acceptance and parental monitoring were associated with decreased child behavior problems. However, the presence of maternal suicidal ideation presented unique risk in which children generally did not benefit from positive parenting behaviors. The findings imply that children of suicidal mothers who also have a SUD could benefit from different parenting strategies than children of mothers who are not suicidal. This study suggests that suicidal ideation is a unique risk factor that should be addressed with both mothers and children when mothers seek substance use treatment.

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Author Contributions

B. B., Q. W., and N. S. developed the idea for the study together. B. B. conducted the literature review and wrote the introductions, methods, and helped with the discussion. Q. W. conducted the data analysis and wrote the results section. N. S. provided assistance with all sections of the study and wrote the discussion.


This work has been supported by NIDA grant R01DA023062, N. Slesnick, PI.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brittany Brakenhoff.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Ohio State University Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Brakenhoff, B., Wu, Q. & Slesnick, N. Substance using Mothers Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts: Impact of Parenting Behaviors on Child Behavior Problems. J Child Fam Stud 27, 629–638 (2018).

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  • Maternal suicide ideation
  • Mothers with a substance use disorder
  • Child problem behaviors
  • Parenting