Child abuse potential in parents with histories of substance use disorder

Robert T. Ammerman, David J. Kolko, Levent Kirisci, Timothy C. Blackson, Michael A. Dawes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the relationship between parental history of substances use disorders (SUDs) and abuse potential. Method: Milner's (1986) Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) was administered to fathers and mothers (with and without histories of SUDs) of 10- to 12-year-old boys. Results: Fathers and mothers with lifetime histories of SUDs had higher Abuse Scale scores and were more likely to score in the Elevated range (as determined by clinically significant cutoff scores) than parents without such histories. No differences were found between parents with current diagnoses of SUD and those with past (but not current) histories of SUD. Fathers and mothers with a partner who had a history of SUD were more likely to score in the Elevated range, regardless of their own SUD histories. Separate regression models revealed that, for both fathers and mothers, emotional dysregulation (positive and negative affectivity) predicted Abuse Scale scores. Additional contributors to Abuse Scale scores were SUD status in fathers, and lack of involvement with the child in mothers.Conclusions: History of SUDs in both fathers and mothers increases abuse potential. Contributors to abuse potential differed in fathers and mothers, underscoring the importance of examining parents separately in child maltreatment research. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1238
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Abuse potential
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Substance use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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