Parenting and early development among children of drug-abusing women: effects of home intervention

Pediatrics. 1994 Oct;94(4 Pt 1):440-8.


Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of home intervention with drug-abusing women on parenting behavior and attitudes, and on children's development.

Design: A randomized, clinical trial of 60 drug-abusing women recruited prenatally and randomized into an intervention (n = 31) or comparison (n = 29) group. There were no group differences in gestational age, 1-minute Apgar scores, duration of hospital stay, or neonatal abstinence score. Intervention infants were slightly heavier (P = .098) and had slightly lower 5-minute Apgar scores (P = .089). Most mothers were single, African-American, multiparous, and non-high school graduates from low income families. Approximately 40% of the women were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive, all admitted to either cocaine and/or heroin use, and 62% had a history of incarceration. Intervention and comparison group women did not differ on any background variables.

Interventions: All children received primary care in a multidisciplinary clinic. Biweekly home visits were provided by a nurse beginning before delivery and extending through 18 months of life. The intervention was designed to provide maternal support and to promote parenting, child development, the utilization of informal and formal resources, and advocacy.

Measurements: Behavioral measures included self-reported ongoing drug abuse, compliance with primary care appointments, and an observation of the child-centered quality of the home (HOME Scale). Parenting attitudes were measured by the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) and the Parenting Stress Index. The CAPI was administered before initiating the intervention and the Parenting Stress Index was administered when the children were 3 months of age. Both scales were repeated when the children were 18 months of age. Developmental status was measured with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development administered at 6, 12, and 18 months.

Analyses: Repeated measures multivariate analyses of variance were used to examine changes in parenting attitudes and children's development. Analyses of covariance were used to examine compliance with primary care appointments and the quality of the home. Logistic regression was used to examine ongoing drug abuse. Birth weight and maternal education were used as covariates in all analyses. To control for social desirability, the faking-good index of the CAPI was included as a covariate in analyses involving self-report measures.

Main results: Women in the intervention group were marginally more likely to report being drug-free (P = .059) and were compliant with primary care appointments for their children (P = .069). Based on the HOME Scale, women in the intervention group were more emotionally responsive (P = .033) and provided marginally more opportunities for stimulation (P = .065). At 18 months parents reported more normative attitudes regarding parenting and more child-related stress than they had initially, but the differences were not related to intervention status. At 6 months infants in the intervention group obtained marginally higher cognitive scores (P = .099); at 12 and 18 months there were no differences.

Conclusions: The findings suggest a cautious optimism regarding the efficacy of early home intervention among drug-abusing women in promoting positive behaviors. Subsequent investigations of home intervention should include larger sample sizes and more intensive options.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Advocacy
  • Child Development*
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Community Health Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Mothers / education*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Program Evaluation
  • Social Support
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology*