To determine if children of substance-abusing mothers witness more violence than children of non–substance-abusing (control) mothers, and to determine if children who witness violence have more behavioral problems and higher stress scores than children who do not witness violence.
Cross-sectional research design comparing exposure to violence among children of substance-abusing mothers and control mothers of low socioeconomic status.
An inner-city pediatric clinic.
Forty substance-abusing mothers and their children, and 40 non–substance-abusing mothers and their children, examined when the children were 6 years old.
Main Outcome Measures
Maternal report of children's exposure to violence was assessed using the Exposure to Violence Interview and the Conflict Tactics Scale. Maternal report of children's behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist and the Children's Response to Stress Inventory.
Children of substance-abusing mothers did not witness more violence than the control children (P>.05). However, 6-year-old inner-city children in the present study witnessed a high rate of violence: 43% had seen someone beaten up, 13% had seen someone threatened with a knife, and 7% had seen someone stabbed or shot. Children witnessing violence had significantly higher aggressive, delinquent, anxious/depressed, withdrawn, attention, and social problems (P<.05) on the Child Behavior Checklist, and higher stress scores (P = .05) on the Children's Response to Stress Inventory.
More than half of the 6-year-old inner-city children in the present study witnessed some form of violence. Witnessing violence was associated with more behavioral problems and higher stress scores as assessed through maternal report. Subsequent research should examine the long-term effects of this exposure to violence among young children.