The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Parenting in Puerto Rican Families Experiencing Substance Use and Intimate Partner Violence

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 11:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Lirio Negroni, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, CT
Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, CT
Michie N. Hesselbrock, PhD, Professor, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, CT
Background:  Parenting plays a crucial role in child development as both a risk and protective factor.  For children exposed to multiple prolonged traumas such as substance abuse disorder (SUD) from either one or both parents and intimate partner violence (IPV), parenting can be disrupted.  The body of literature on the effects of trauma for children related to intimate partner violence and exposure to substance use disorders is growing, but lacks the specificity to Latino populations and subgroups.  In response to this paucity of knowledge this paper will focus on Puerto Rican families to investigate the effects of trauma exposure (SUD and IPV) on child behavioral issues.  

Methods: This article utilizes cross sectional survey data from the Latino Family Connection Project, a culturally adapted Strengthening Families Program.  Puerto Rican families from two urban centers in Connecticut participated in the study. All families had to have a child age 9 to12 and a parent who had a documented substance use disorder. Families were recruited through presentations, and brochures and flyers distributed by program staff. A total of 157 Puerto Rican parent-youth dyads participated.   A variety of standardized measures were utilized including the Parent Observation of Children’s Activities (POCA-R) to measure child behavioral issues, and subscales from the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form.   Standard multiple regression was used to assess the effects of exposure to intimate partner violence and family protective factors (family hardiness, parental monitoring, parental reinforcement) and parenting  stressors (parental distress, parent-child dysfunctional interactions) in the context of acculturation (place born, cultural connections , and social network) on the ability to predict child behavioral problems. 

Results: The total variance explained by the model was 38.3%, F(9,126)=8.70, p<.001.  Five variables contributed significantly to child behavioral problems, two acculturation measures and three parenting measures.   Parent child dysfunctional interaction was statistically significant with the highest standardized beta value (β =.308, p=.001). Parental reinforcement was inversely related to child behavior problems (β=-.226, p=.003).  Parental distress also significantly predicted child behavioral problems (β=-.226, p=.047).  Two acculturation measures, cultural connections  and social networks were significant predictors of child behavior problems (β=-.165, p=.027) and (β=-.146, p=.050).  Both measures were related positively, with more social networks and more cultural connections the more reported child behavior problems.

Conclusions: Results indicate that for Puerto Rican families the influence of the parent experience and the interactions between the parent and the child have strong influences on child behavior problems in traumatic family environments.  Social work practice has to focus on parenting experiences, managing the stress of the parent, and focus on positive reinforcement of child behavior.  Special attention should be paid to the type of social networks maintained by the family to investigate the potential damaging effects on continued exposure to substance use and possible supportive behavior towards IPV.  More research on Puerto Rican families, the cultural and family factors associated with child outcomes affected by substance use disorder and intimate partner violence, is necessary and would allow for further interpretation of these results.