Risk factors for the development of emotional and behavioural problems in children born to drug-dependent mothers

Steinhausen, Hans-Christoph ; Mas, Serena ; Ledermann, Christoph ; Metzke, Christa

In: European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2006, vol. 15, no. 8, p. 460-466

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    Background: The study of biological and psychosocial risk factors for the development of emotional and behavioural problems in children of drug-dependent mothers. Methods: In a sample of 52 children and drug-dependent mothers participating in a residential intervention programme emotional and behavioural problems were studied in the children by use of the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). The Symptom-Checklist Revised (SCL-90-R) served to assess mental problems in the mother. Drug exposure during pregnancy, various psychosocial risk factors due to the drug-career, and educational status of the mother were assessed by maternal interview. A brief assessment of intelligence of the mother was included. Results: Among the various biological and psychosocial risk factors, maternal mental health problems, maternal educational status, and a small number of close social relationships correlated significantly with child outcome variables. Multiple regression analyses identified maternal mental health factors as the main predictors of child behaviour. Conclusions: Assisting drug-dependent mothers in overcoming the psychosocial sequelae of drug abuse implies also assistance to the children in terms of prevention of emotional and behavioural problems