Abstract: Examining Associations between Parental Health, Prescription Drug Use, and Child Maltreatment (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Examining Associations between Parental Health, Prescription Drug Use, and Child Maltreatment

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Price Wolf, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Prevention Research Center, Berkeley
Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean for Research, The Ohio State University College of Social Work, OH
Karla Shockley McCarthy, MSW, LSW, Doctoral Student and Graduate Research Associate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background: Child maltreatment and problematic parenting are related to negative outcomes for children. Poor parental health could be a risk factor for problematic parenting through several mechanisms: 1) inadequate emotional regulation and coping; 2) impairment of parental capacity; and, 3) impairment of the parent-child relationship. In addition to poor health, there is little understanding of whether parent’s use of prescription drugs for health conditions might relate to parenting behaviors. Although use of prescription drugs may be required for a variety of conditions, they also produce side effects that could impair a person’s ability to parent effectively. This study examines relationships between self-rated parental health, prescription drug use, and a broad array of negative parenting outcomes.

Method: A sample of general population parents of children aged ten and younger was recruited from 30 mid-sized cities in California (N=853). Parenting items were measured via the Conflict Tactics Scale, Parent-Child Version. Weighted mixed effects negative binomial and logistic regression models were used to examine associations between poor parental health, prescription drug use and child maltreatment (physical abuse, supervisory neglect, and physical neglect), and problematic parenting (psychological aggression and corporal punishment).

Results: Parents in poor health used corporal punishment and psychological aggression more frequently and had higher odds of supervisory neglect. Parents who were using any prescription drugs used physical abuse more frequently, while those who were taking more prescriptions had higher odds of physical neglect. Exploratory analyses suggested that prescriptions for certain medical conditions both increased and decreased the risk of problematic parenting.

Discussion: Poor health and prescription drug use are not uncommon and present largely under-recognized risk factors for a spectrum of adverse parenting outcomes. Our study provides additional evidence that parents in poor health are at heightened risk of negative parenting, and need intervention in order to protect children.