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Pathways From Parental Substance Use to Child Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors in a Child Protective Services Sample

Seay, Kristen D. – 2020

This study examines the role of mediation in the pathway from parental substance use to children developing child internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II, a random half sample (i.e., split-half approach) of children aged 18 months to 17 years who remained in the home following a child welfare investigation (N = 1,633) was used to examine direct and mediated pathways from parental self-reported alcohol and drug use to, separately, parent report of child internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Four parallel mediators were examined: child-reported exposure to violence, child-reported parental monitoring, parent-reported harsh physical discipline, and parent-reported emotional maltreatment. The strongest models for both parental alcohol and drug use to internalizing and externalizing behaviors were single-mediator models through emotional maltreatment. Results suggest emotional maltreatment is a crucial intervention target for families with substance use disorders. Parenting interventions must also strengthen parent–child relationships in order to be effective at improving child outcomes. (Author abstract)