Development and Psychopathology, 10 (1998), 117–136
Copyright 1998 Cambridge University Press
Printed in the United States of America
Multiple jeopardy: Risk and protective
factors among addicted mothers’ offspring
SUNIYA S. LUTHAR,aGRETTA CUSHING,b
KATHLEEN R. MERIKANGAS,cAND BRUCE J. ROUNSAVILLEc
aTeachers College, Columbia University;
bUniversity of Utah; and
Objectives of this study were to ascertain risk and protective factors in the adjustment of 78 school-age and teenage
offspring of opioid- and cocaine-abusing mothers. Using a multimethod, multiinformant approach, child outcomes
were operationalized via lifetime psychiatric diagnoses and everyday social competence (each based on both mother
and child reports), and dimensional assessments of symptoms (mother report). Risk/protective factors examined
included the child sociodemographic attributes of gender, age, and ethnicity, aspects of maternal psychopathology,
and both mother’s and children’s cognitive functioning. Results revealed that greater child maladjustment was linked
with increasing age, Caucasian (as opposed to African American) ethnicity, severity of maternal psychiatric
disturbance, higher maternal cognitive abilities (among African Americans) and lower child cognitive abilities
(among Caucasians). Limitations of the study are discussed, as are implications of findings for future research.
The focus of this paper is on the psychosocial
development of school-age and adolescent
offspring of cocaine and opioid addicts, a
group that has received little research atten-
tion so far. There has been much work with
children in this age range whose parents have
other types of psychiatric disorders, such as
depression, alcoholism, and schizophrenia.
Collectively, these studies have indicated
multiple areas of psychosocial vulnerability
(for reviews, see Cicchetti & Toth, 1995;
Cummings & Davies, 1994; Nuechterlein,
Phipps–Yonas, Driscoll, & Garmezy, 1990;
West & Prinz, 1987).
The existing research on addicted mothers’
offspring has been focused largely on infants
and preschoolers, and findings with these
young children indicate few major psychoso-
cial deficits. Although there are some areas
in which problems are manifested—such as
attentional difficulties—there is little evi-
dence for any global psychiatric or behavioral
maladjustment (Hawley & Disney, 1992;
Mayes & Bornstein, 1997).
By contrast, the little evidence that exists
on older offspring of substance abusers indi-
cates that they show considerable vulnerabil-
ity for negative outcomes. Using the Child
Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach, 1991),
for example, deCubas and Field (1993) found
that 6–13-year-old children of substance-
abusing mothers scored higher on almost all
problem scales as compared to matched con-
trols. Similarly, Wilens, Biederman, Kiely,
Bredin, and Spencer (1995a) documented
higher levels of both internalizing and exter-
nalizing symptoms among school age children
of opioid abusers, as compared to children of
This research was supported by Research Scientist Devel-
opment Awards K21-DA00202 (Luthar), K05-DA0089
(Rounsaville) and KO2-MH00499 (Merikangas), and by
P50-DA09241 (Rounsaville & Luthar), R01 DA04029
(Rounsaville), and R01-DA05348 (Merikangas). Sincere
thanks to Peter Szatmari, M.D., and to Brenda Fenton,
Ph.D. and Denise Stevens, Ph.D., for providing best esti-
mate diagnoses for children and adults, respectively. Sug-
gestions by Dr. Dante Cicchetti and five anonymous re-
viewers and comments from Drs. Shirley Hill and
Constance Hammen are also gratefully acknowledged.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Su-
niya S. Luthar, Department of Human Development,
Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th
Street, Box 133, New York, NY 10027.
S. S. Luthar et al.
normal controls. Additionally, more than half
the sample of addicts’ offspring had clinically
elevated levels of symptomatology as indi-
cated by CBCL t scores.
If older children of addicted mothers do in
fact show serious vulnerability, a research
task of obvious importance is the identifica-
tion of risk and protective factors linked with
the children’s adaptation. This task forms the
crux of this study. The major question ad-
dressed is, considering multiple aspects of
maternal functioning and child attributes,
what factors are related to the adjustment
of cocaine- and opioid-abusing mothers’ off-
nal disturbances would adversely affect minor
children in their care as well. These variables
included indices of overall psychopathology,
aspects of personality, levels of sensation
seeking, and cognitive abilities.
Addicted individuals typically have high
levels of several comorbid psychiatric disturb-
ances including depressive and anxiety diag-
noses as well as antisocial personality disor-
der (Hesselbrock, Meyer, & Keener, 1985;
Rounsaville et al., 1991; Rounsaville, Kosten,
Weissman, & Kleber, 1986). For this inquiry
we used two broad indices of overall disturb-
ance, that is, the total number of lifetime psy-
chiatric disorders comorbid with substance
abuse, and whether the mother had ever at-
tempted suicide. Use of the first of these was
based in evidence that multiple comorbid psy-
chiatric disorders typically presage relatively
poor prognosis (e.g., Meyer, 1986; Shirley &
Windle, 1994). Similarly, suicidal history has
been commonly examined as an indicator of
overall psychiatric impairment among drug-
abusing women (e.g., Ross, Glaser, & Sti-
asny, 1988; Wallen, 1992).
Aside from examining their adjustment
from a diagnostic standpoint, paralleling our
strategy with children, we obtained dimen-
sional assessments of both positive and nega-
tive affectivity among mothers. We also ex-
amined, more specifically, two personality
dimensions likely to show disturbances among
drug abusing women. One was sensation
seeking, and the other (in a sense, the ob-
verse) was behavioral inhibition. Sensation
seeking has been found to be of considerable
significance in the psychosocial adjustment of
addicted individuals (Ball, Carroll, & Rounsa-
ville, 1994); for child outcomes, there are sub-
stantial implications of having a mother who
is habitually drawn to dangerous and uncon-
Mothers’ cognitive abilities were also ex-
amined given evidence of significant deficits
in this regard among substance abusing
women (Eliason & Skinstand, 1995; Haller,
Knisely, Dawson, & Schnoll, 1993). Further,
there have been reports among other disad-
vantaged groups that high maternal cognitive
abilities are linked with relatively positive
outcomes among offspring (Brooks–Gunn,
Operationalization of Constructs
Our approach to operationalizing psychoso-
cial functioning was based on multiple infor-
mants and multiple domains. Reports on the
child’s functioning were obtained from the
children themselves, as well as their mothers.
Domains assessed included maladjustment as
indexed by both categorical (psychiatric diag-
noses) and dimensional (symptom counts)
measures, as well as levels of the child’s
adaptive behaviors in everyday life. Citing ev-
idence that dimensional and categorical as-
sessments can capture different aspects of
child psychopathology, Ollendick and King
(1994) have argued strongly for the use of
both approaches in studying children. The
value of looking at adaptive behaviors in ev-
eryday life is supported by evidence that high
symptomatology does not necessarily imply
low levels of socially competent behavior
Among the risk and protective indices ex-
amined, our primary focus was on aspects of
the mother’s psychosocial functioning. Drug-
abusing mothers are single parents with few
stable relationships with other adults; thus,
they are often a potent socializing force for
their children, perhaps more so than many
other groups of parents (Levy & Rutter, 1992;
Luthar & Walsh, 1995). From among the
gamut of maternal attributes, we identified as-
pects of functioning that have been found to
be particularly problematic among addicted
women, with the reasoning that serious mater-
Addicted mothers’ offspring
Klebanov, & Duncan, 1996; Luster & Mc-
Adoo, 1994). Much of this research, however,
has focused on maternal intelligence in rela-
tion to children’s cognitive outcomes; there is
currently little evidence on associations with
psychiatric and psychosocial outcomes among
children in high-risk circumstances.
In addition to maternal cognitive compe-
tence, children’s cognitive abilities were also
examined given findings that intelligence of-
ten moderates the effects of negative life cir-
cumstances on child adjustment (Luthar &
Zigler, 1991). Finally, three other child attri-
butes were examined as proxies for risk/pro-
tective influences: gender, age, and ethnicity.
Whereas previous findings on gender and
child psychopathology have been fairly con-
sistent—with boys and girls being more vul-
nerable to externalizing and internalizing dis-
orders respectively—the evidence on age and
ethnicity has been less clear. To illustrate, in
the literature on poverty and child adjustment,
some studies have shown that the negative ef-
fects of life in poverty are cumulative with
increasing age (Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994;
Eckenrode, Rowe, Laird, & Braithwaite,
1995), whereas others (Fitzpatrick, 1993)
have found the reverse pattern to be true.
McLoyd and Wilson (1990) found that
younger adolescents reported more psycho-
logical distress than did older ones, possibly
reflecting less mature coping strategies and
psychological resources, and fewer social
connections outside the context of the home.
Findings on ethnicity vis-a `-vis child out-
comes have been similarly equivocal. As
Spencer and Dornbusch (1990) have argued,
among minority children, more so than Cau-
casians, are typically interpreted based on eth-
nicity; however, they are in fact, often the
products of social class differences. Consis-
tent with this reasoning, it has been shown
that when socioeconomic status is controlled
for, differences associated with ethnicity be-
come trivial in magnitude (Dodge et al.,
1994). Further, some research has suggested
that when ethnic differences are examined
within disadvantaged samples, the direction of
differences can be reversed, so that African
American children and families fare better
than their Caucasian counterparts (Baldwin et
al., 1993; Peterson et al., 1994).
Based on the previously cited evidence, in
this study we examined psychiatric and psy-
chosocial outcomes among addicted mothers’
offspring in relation to the following risk/pro-
tective indices: aspects of maternal psychiat-
ric functioning and personality, cognitive
abilities of mothers and their children, and the
child sociodemographic attributes of gender,
age, and ethnicity. Child outcomes were oper-
ationalized based on multiple indices includ-
ing psychiatric diagnoses, levels of internaliz-
ing and externalizing symptomatology, and
adaptive functioning in everyday life.
Overall design of study
This report derives from data collected within
a family-genetic study of drug addicted indi-
viduals and their first-degree relatives. Deriv-
ing from Merikangas’ family–genetic studies
on alcoholism and anxiety disorders (Meri-
kangas et al., 1995), overall objectives in this
research were to examine patterns of trans-
mission of major psychiatric disorders among
families of adult substance abusers. The study
involved extensive assessments of opioid and/
or cocaine abusing probands, of their parents
and siblings, and of their minor offspring.
This paper represents the first published re-
port on the psychosocial status of this cohort
of drug abusers’ offspring.
Between 1990 and 1993, probands for this
study were recruited from treatment facilities
in New Haven that serve individuals who
abuse cocaine and opioids, sampling the Yale
Substance Abuse Treatment Unit’s metha-
done and outpatient clinics as well as seven
hospitals in the region. Participation was vol-
untary, and interested individuals were ac-
cepted in the study if they provided consent
for interviewing at least one offspring be-
S. S. Luthar et al.
tween 7 and 17 years. Proband participants
were paid $50 for completing all assessments
on themselves and $20 for all assessments
pertaining to their children. Children were
paid $20 for participating.
In all, we obtained data on a total of 137
children between the ages of 7 and 17 years,
at least one of whose parents was in treatment
for opioids or cocaine addiction. The over-
whelming majority of these children (n = 119)
were those whose mothers were addicted to
drugs, as opposed to those whose biological
fathers (but not mothers) were addicted
(n = 18).
Given the central interest in effects of ma-
ternal dysfunction on children’s psychopath-
ology, the focus in this paper is limited to the
119 children whose mothers were drug abus-
ers. Further, to guard against violation of sta-
tistical assumptions regarding independence
of observations, a subsample of one child per
mother was identified at the outset on which
central analyses were conducted. The subset
of 78 children included the oldest children for
all mothers with more than one child. Oldest
offspring were targeted to maximize the range
of child psychiatric outcomes, given that the
likelihood of observing lifetime psychiatric
disorders among children increases with age.
were raised by their mothers alone, 39% lived
in households with three or more minor chil-
dren, and in 64% of instances the head of
household was unemployed/on welfare or en-
gaged in unskilled/semiskilled work. With re-
gard to other demographic characteristics,
31% of mothers and 37% of offspring were
of minority (African American) as opposed to
Caucasian heritage. The mothers ranged in
age between 24 and 47 years, with a mean of
35 (SD = 5.0). Offsprings’ ages ranged be-
tween 7 and 17 years with a mean of 11.7
(SD = 3.0); 51% of the children were between
7 and 11 years of age and 49% were 12 or
older. Forty-five percent of the children were
In terms of living arrangements, mothers
had sole or joint custody of almost all the
children in this sample (95%, n = 75); of the
three remaining children, one was in the cus-
tody of the father and two were with other
adults. Further, almost all the children (94%,
n = 73) were living with the mothers at the
time of the interview. Of the five children
who were not living with their mothers, three
reportedly saw their mothers at least several
times every month and two visited with the
mother several times a year.
Conversely, many of the children in this
sample had limited contact with their biologi-
cal fathers. Seventy-four percent (n = 56) of
the children did not live with their fathers; of
these, almost 40% (n = 22) had no contact
whatever with their fathers, 27% (n = 15) saw
their fathers a few times a year, and 34%
(n = 19) visited at least several times a month.
Characteristics of sample. The histories of
mothers in this sample reflected both multi-
plicity and severity of substance abuse prob-
lems. Whereas narcotics and cocaine respec-
tively were the primary substances abused by
77% (n = 60) and 23% (n = 18) of the moth-
ers, by far most of the mothers (90%) met cri-
teria for abuse/dependence for more than one
substance, and almost three-quarters (73%)
met criteria for three or more substances. In
addition to the end-stage drugs (Kandel,
1975) of heroin and cocaine, other substances
abused were marijuana (67%), alcohol (60%),
and sedatives (26%). Relatively high severity
of substance use problems is also indicated by
a mean age of onset of 19.3 years; 68% of
the mothers in this sample had begun to abuse
substances prior to 21 years of age.
The mothers and their children also repre-
sented a sociodemographically disadvantaged
group. Forty-seven percent of the children
Data collection strategy
Data collection for this study centered around
interviews conducted with the addicted pro-
bands and their children, and when consent
was provided, also with their spouses and
their first degree relatives. Of the families in-
volved in the overall study, direct interviews
were conducted with all the children, 97% of
the mothers (76 of 78), but only 37% of the
fathers (39 of 105).
During their interviews, custodial proband
parents, and the children themselves, each re-
ported on the child’s everyday social compe-
Addicted mothers’ offspring
tence and psychiatric status (see “Measure-
ment” section for details). Proband parents
also reported on their own psychiatric history,
as well as that of their spouses and first de-
gree relatives. Interviews with participants
were all conducted by master’s level clini-
cians who had received extensive didactic and
in vivo training in conducting the semistruc-
tured psychiatric interviews, as well as ongo-
ing supervision. Interviewers who evaluated
the children’s functioning—in interviews with
the children themselves or with the parents
about the children—were blind to the psychi-
atric status of the parents, and were required
to have had some prior clinical experience
the appropriateness of classifying this as a
disruptive behavior disorder (Loeber & Kee-
nan, 1994; Dishion, French, & Patterson,
As a cross-check on the reliability of the
best estimate diagnoses, a subset of cases was
independently and blindly rated by another
clinician, and κ coefficients were found to be
.75 and 1.00 for Affective/Anxiety and Dis-
ruptive Behavior Disorders respectively.
Children’s levels of internalizing and ex-
ternalizing symptomatology were measured
via Achenbach’s Child Behavior Checklist
(Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983), based on re-
ports by the custodial parent. Internal consis-
tency coefficients on the CBCL within this
sample, as well as consistency coefficients for
other questionnaire-based measures used in
the study, are presented in Table 2 along with
means and standard deviations for each.
Children’s social competence in every-
day life was assessed via the Social Adjust-
ment Inventory for Children and Adolescents
(SAICA; John, Gammon, Prusoff, & Warner,
1987), a semistructured interview that was ad-
ministered to all children and to their custo-
dial parents. This instrument consists of 77
items that pertain to functioning in four role
areas, that is, school, spare time activities,
peer relations, and home. In addition to vari-
ous subscale scores, a total social adjustment
score can be derived from the SAICA; it was
this score that was used in the present study
(low overall SAICA scores are indicative of
relatively good functioning).
As mentioned previously, children’s and
mothers’ reports on the SAICA had been used
as supplements to the K-SADS psychiatric in-
terviews in arriving at children’s “best esti-
mate” diagnoses. Social competence scores
were, nevertheless, independently examined
as child outcomes in this study, since the
SAICA samples a wider range of behavioral
domains than those encompassed within psy-
chiatric diagnoses, and it captures not just
negative extremes of adjustment but positive
ones as well (e.g., excellence in school or in
Measurement of central constructs
Child outcomes. Children’s psychiatric status
was determined based on the child version of
the Schedule for Affective Disorders and
Schizophrenia (SADS-L), the Kiddie-SADS
(Chambers et al., 1985), that was modified to
incorporate DSM-III-R diagnoses with the as-
sistance of Dr. J. Puig–Antich (Merikangas et
al., 1995). The K-SADS has been found to be
a reliable and valid instrument for obtaining
lifetime diagnoses on children (Chambers et
al., 1985). In this study, the instrument was
administered to the custodial parent as well as
to the target child. Using these diagnostic
data, as well as information on social compe-
tence (described later), and available data
from family history reports, medical records,
and teacher reports on Achenbach’s Teacher
Rating Form (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983),
child psychiatrists arrived at “best estimate di-
agnoses” (Leckman et al., 1982).1
For this study, child psychiatric outcomes
were grouped in two broad categories, that is,
Affective/Anxiety diagnoses including all de-
pressive or anxiety disorders (see Table 1),
and Disruptive behavior diagnoses (Conduct
and Oppositional Defiant disorders). Atten-
tion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was ex-
cluded in view of ongoing controversy about
1. Family history data, medical records, and teacher re-
ports were obtained for 41%, 60%, and 29% of the
Risk/protective factors. In the context of ma-
ternal psychosocial characteristics, maternal
S. S. Luthar et al.
Table 1. Psychiatric disorders among children and mothers
(n = 78)
(n = 119)
(n = 78) Psychiatric Diagnosis
Any childhood disruptive disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Note: Values are percentages, and numbers of individuals are in parentheses.
aIncludes Adjustment Disorders; with these disorders excluded, rates are 60 and
56% for the unrelated children (n = 78) and overall sample (n = 119) respectively.
Table 2. Mean scores on questionnaire-based measures and
α coefficients of internal consistency
(n = 78)
CBCLa: Internalizing (raw score)
CBCL: Externalizing (raw score)
CBCL: Internalizing (t score)
CBCL: Externalizing (t score)
SAICAb: Mother report
SAICA: Child report
SSSc: Boredom susceptibility
SSS: Experience seeking
SSS: Thrill/adventure seeking
MPQe: Negative affectivity
MPQ: Positive affectivity
aChild Behavior Checklist.
bSocial Adjustment Inventory for Children & Adolescents.
cSensation Seeking Scale.
dRetrospective Self-Report of Inhibition.
eMultiphasic Personality Questionnaire. Alpha coefficients are not pro-
vided for MPQ scores because they are composites involving disparate
weighting patterns of individual subscales. The 11 MPQ subscales had
alpha coefficients ranging between .70 and .89 (median .81).
Addicted mothers’ offspring
psychiatric history was measured based on a
modified version of the SADS-L (Endicott &
Spitzer, 1978), yielding DSM-III-R diagno-
ses. The SADS-L is a widely used semi-struc-
tured interview, which has empirically estab-
lished reliability and validity (Endicott &
Spitzer, 1978, 1979). Apart from the proband
parents’ own reports, additional information
on their psychiatric status was often available
from interviews with the proband’s spouses
and their relatives, using the Family History-
RDC method (Andreasen, Rice, Endicott,
Reich, & Coryell, 1986), as well as from med-
ical records. Based on data obtained across all
these sources of information, Ph.D. or M.D.
level clinicians arrived at “best estimate diag-
noses” (Leckman et al., 1982). Reliability of
these diagnoses was good; on a subset of
cases that were independently reviewed by a
second clinician, agreement was found to be
100% for any Affective/Anxiety disorder, and
κ coefficients of .73 and .87 respectively were
obtained for antisocial personality disorder
Proband parents completed Zuckerman’s
(1984) measure of sensation seeking, a 72-
item questionnaire that yields scores on a
General scale and four subscales, Thrill and
Adventure Seeking (desire to take physical
risks), Boredom Susceptibility (need to seek
(seeking new experiences through unconven-
tional behavior), and Disinhibition (interest in
going against conventions and social norms).
Acceptable psychometric properties for this
measure have been documented (Zuckerman,
Maternal behavioral inhibition was as-
sessed by the Retrospective Self-Report of In-
hibition (RSRI; Reznick et al., 1992), a 30-
item instrument with responses coded on a
five-point scale. Good psychometric proper-
ties have been documented for the RSRI
(Reznick et al., 1992). Mothers also com-
pleted the Multiphasic Personality Question-
naire (Tellegen, 1982). A 300-item question-
naire with a dichotomous response scale, the
MPQ yields scores on 11 primary personality
dimensions and three higher order traits, that
is, Positive Affectivity (reflecting characteris-
tics conducive to joy, excitement, vigor, and
positive engagement), Negative Affectivity
(associated with anxiety, anger, and related
states of negative engagement), and Con-
straint (a self-restraint or response inhibition
factor). High levels of reliability and validity
have been demonstrated for the MPQ in a
range of subject populations (Gjerde, Block, &
Block, 1988; Harkness, McNulty, & Ben–
Porath, 1995; Tellegen, 1982).
Both mothers’ and children’s cognitive
abilities were assessed by the Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn &
Dunn, 1981). A test of receptive vocabulary,
the PPVT-R has well established reliability
and validity (Sattler, 1982), and has fre-
quently been used as a global indicator of
cognitive competence among both mothers
and children living in conditions of chronic
socioeconomic disadvantage (e.g., Bradley et
al., 1994; Brooks–Gunn et al., 1996; Chase–
Lansdale, Brooks–Gunn, & Zamsky, 1994;
Luster & McAdoo, 1994; Walker, Green-
wood, Hart, & Carta, 1994).
Checks on sample heterogeneity
At the outset, exploratory analyses were con-
ducted to ascertain the comparability of the
children whose addicted proband parent was
a mother, as opposed to the small group of
children whose fathers—but not mothers—
were drug users. Across several child and
mother indices, the former cohort was consis-
tently at a disadvantage (see Hill & Muka,
1996, for comparable findings with alcoholic
mothers vs. fathers). These differences sub-
stantiated our decision not to include children
of addicted fathers while examining risk/pro-
tective factors in this study.
A parallel set of analyses was performed
to examine differences associated with the
mother’s primary end-stage drug of choice,
that is, opioids alone, cocaine alone, and both
cocaine and opioids. Results indicated nonsig-
nificant differences across multiple aspects of
both children’s and mothers’ functioning;
thus, data on these children were analyzed to-
S. S. Luthar et al.
Psychopathology among children and
performed using varimax rotation. Using dual
criteria of the scree plot and eigenvalues
greater than one, analyses of the 10 attributes
in question indicated a two-factor solution.
An acceptable value of Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin
(KMO) measure of sample adequacy was ob-
tained (.62; Norusis, 1994). One of the two
factors in this solution involved high maternal
sensation seeking and low constraint in be-
haviors (factor loadings are indicated in pa-
rentheses): SSS Experience Seeking (.86),
SSS Boredom Susceptibility (.81), SSS Thrill/
Adventure Seeking (.65), MPQ Constraint
(−.74), and SSS Disinhibition (.55). The sec-
ond factor involved maternal psychopathol-
ogy: total number of psychiatric diagnoses
(.70), suicidal history (dummy coded as 0 and
1; .70), RCRI behavioral inhibition (.73),
MPQ Negative Affectivity (.56), MPQ Posi-
tive Affectivity (−.40), and SSS Disinhibition
(.46). With the exception of SSS Dishibition
which loaded on both factors, all variables
loaded strongly on only one factor: loadings
on the other factor were below .30. Based on
these analyses, therefore, two composite scores
were derived using standardized scores, sum-
ming according to the direction of factor load-
ings, and excluding SSS Disinhibition from
the composite scores. The composite scores
were labeled Maternal Sensation Seeking and
Maternal Psychiatric Illness respectively.
Child psychopathology. Table 1 presents rates
of major DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders
among the 78 unrelated children in the sample
as well as the entire cohort of 119 children.
As shown in this table, approximately 67%
of the 78 unrelated children had at least one
psychiatric diagnosis; almost half (46%) had
at least one Affective/Anxiety disorder, and
approximately 30% had at least one Disrup-
Analyses of differences in rates of child-
hood disorder by gender revealed a single dif-
ference, that is, boys had significantly higher
rates than girls of ADHD (17% versus 0).
With regard to ethnic differences, Caucasian
children were more likely than minorities to
have at least one diagnosis (76% vs. 52%);
they also had significantly higher rates on
three specific disorders: Overanxious disorder
(12.0% vs. 0%), ADHD (12% vs. 0%), and
ODD (31% vs. 10%).
To further characterize the extent of dys-
function among children in this sample, clini-
cal t scores were computed on CBCL scores.
Using a cutoff of 60 (Biederman et al., in
press; Wilens et al., 1995a), we found that
50% of the children had a significant t score
on at least one CBCL subscale. On the overall
Internalizing and Externalizing subscales re-
spectively, 13% and 14% of the children had
significant t scores.
Maternal psychopathology. Rates of disorders
among mothers are presented in the third col-
umn of Table 1. An overwhelming 89.7% of
mothers had at least one affective or anxiety
disorder; 60% had comorbid alcoholism, and
almost 30% had diagnoses of Antisocial
Personality Disorder. Analyses of ethnic dif-
ferences indicated a single difference: Cauca-
sians had significantly higher rates of alcohol-
ism (69.9% vs. 42.9%).
Intercorrelations among the variables, pre-
sented in Table 3, generally indicated signifi-
cant associations in expected directions with
two exceptions. First, unlike other associa-
tions among child psychopathology indices,
dimensional (CBCL) ratings of internalizing
symptoms showed weak associations with
other child outcomes. Second, maternal sensa-
tion seeking was positively linked with mater-
nal cognitive abilities, raising the possibility
that the more intelligent mothers in this sam-
ple were somewhat more disturbed than oth-
ers (see the “Hierarchical multiple regression
analyses,” and “Discussion” sections for more
on negative effects linked with mothers’ cog-
Data reduction of maternal attributes
In an attempt to reduce the number of vari-
ables representing maternal personality/psy-
chopathology attributes, factor analyses were
Table 3. Intercorrelations of risk/protective variables and child outcomes
4. Maternal psychiatric illness
5. Maternal sensation seeking
6. Maternal cognitive abilities
7. Child’s cognitive abilities
8. Affective/anxiety disorder
9. Disruptive disorder
10. CBCL: Internalizing
11. CBCL: Externalizing
12. SAICA: Mother report
13. SAICA: Child report
.18 .28* .56*** .02
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all variables refer to child characteristics.
aCategorical variables are dummy coded as follows: Gender, 1 = boys, 0 = girls; Ethnicity, 1 = Caucasian, 0 = African American.
n = 78.
+p < .10; *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
S. S. Luthar et al.
Hierarchical multiple regression analyses
and (b) ethnicity and both maternal and child
cognitive competence indices, in light of find-
ings that links between intelligence and psy-
chosocial constructs can vary substantially
across ethnic groups (Brooks–Gunn et al.,
1996). In the interest of avoiding Type I er-
rors, the interaction effects were examined in-
dividually only if the set of three considered
as a block yielded a significant increase in R2.
Results of the regression analyses are pre-
sented in Table 4. As shown in this table, a
single finding was obtained for child gender;
mother’s SAICA reports were better for
daughters than for sons. Child age was posi-
tively linked with incidence of Affective/Anx-
iety disorders and mothers’ reports on the
SAICA. Ethnicity was linked with Disruptive
diagnoses and with both mothers’ and chil-
dren’s reports on the SAICA; in each case,
the direction of these findings favored African
Americans. Maternal Psychiatric Illness was
associated with CBCL Internalizing and Ex-
ternalizing disorders and mother’s reports on
the SAICA, whereas Maternal Sensation
Seeking was linked with child Disruptive di-
agnoses. Mothers’ cognitive abilities were
positively linked with incidence of child Af-
fective/Anxiety diagnoses, and three negative
associations were found for child cognitive
abilities, with mothers’ reports on the SAICA
and on both internalizing and externalizing
The block of three interaction terms was
nonsignificant in relation to Affection/Anxi-
ety diagnoses and child SAICA reports, but
was significant for the other four outcomes at
p < .05. Examination of terms within the
blocks indicated the following significant ef-
fects: (a)Maternal Psychiatric Illness × Mater-
nal Sensation Seeking in relation to child Dis-
ruptive diagnoses and Externalizing CBCL
scores; (b) maternal cognitive competence ×
ethnicity in relation to both Disruptive diag-
noses and mothers’ reports on the SAICA;
and (c) child cognitive competence × ethnicity
in relation to child Internalizing and External-
The pattern underlying each of these inter-
action effects is displayed in Figures 1a–f.
As shown in Figures 1a and 1b, coexisting
Given the lack of prior research on older chil-
dren of drug abusing mothers, the data ana-
lytic approach in this study was exploratory
in nature. Questions concerning risk/protec-
tive factors were examined via hierarchical
multiple regression analyses. Separate analy-
ses were conducted for each of the six out-
come variables—Affective/Anxiety and Dis-
ruptive diagnoses, CBCL Internalizing and
Externalizing scores, and SAICA mother and
child reports—with the first two of these
dummy coded for inclusion in these regres-
sions (Cohen & Cohen, 1983).
The order of entry of the first few variables
in these analyses was dictated by temporal
considerations (Cohen & Cohen, 1983), so
that the child’s gender, age, and ethnicity—
the first variables to be “fixed”—were in-
cluded at the outset. Given the primary inter-
est in psychopathology within this research,
the two composites of maternal psychopathol-
ogy were entered next, and the order of entry
of these two variables within the block was
allowed to vary according to decreasing toler-
ance (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989). The last
two variables entered were maternal cognitive
abilities and child cognitive abilities, in that
Guided by previous evidence, a series of
three interaction effects was also explored.
These included interactions between (a) the
composite indices of maternal psychopathol-
ogy, given evidence that for children, coexist-
ing forms of maternal psychopathology signal
worse prognosis than either one existing alone
(e.g., Radke–Yarrow & Klimes–Dougan, 1997),
2. Given (a) considerations regarding statistical power,
(b) that our sample included predominantly lower class
families, and (c) previous findings that with a restricted
range, SES is unlikely to show strong associations with
outcomes (e.g., Luster & McAdoo, 1994; Luthar,
1995), SES was not included in the central analyses
(Table 4). However, replicatory analyses were con-
ducted of all regressions, with SES entered at Step 4
after ethnicity. Results were no different from those
reported in the tables. Similarly, single mother house-
hold status was unrelated to all six outcomes, and asso-
ciations reported in Table 4 were essentially unaltered
by inclusion of this variable.
Table 4. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses predicting child outcomes
Maternal psychiatric illness (MPI)
Maternal sensation seeking (MSS)
Cognitive abilities: Mother (CA-M)
Cognitive abilities: Child (CA-C)
MPI × MSS
CA-M × ethnicity
CA-C × ethnicity
Note: n = 78.
aAs recommended by Aiken and West (1991), unstandardized regression coefficients are reported because standardized coefficients are inappropri-
ate with interaction terms; also, interaction terms in these analyses involve centered variables.
bGender, 1 = boys, 0 = girls; Ethnicity, 1 = Caucasian, 0 = African American.
+p < .10; *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
S. S. Luthar et al.
Figure 1. (a,b) Interaction between Maternal Psychiatric Illness and Maternal Sensation
Seeking in relation to child outcomes. (c,d) Interaction between maternal cognitive abilities
and ethnicity in relation to child outcomes. (e,f) Interaction between child cognitive abilities
and ethnicity in relation to child outcomes.
high levels of psychiatric illness and sensation
seeking increased the likelihood of disruptive
behaviors among children. Figures 1c and 1d
indicate that children’s disruptive behavior
problems and disturbances in everyday func-
tioning were most pronounced among off-
spring of African American mothers with rel-
atively high cognitive functioning. Finally,
Figures 1e and 1f indicate that low levels of
child cognitive abilities were positively linked
with mothers’ reports of child symptomatol-
ogy, but only among Caucasian youth.
Our discussion of findings is presented ac-
cording to the discrete groups of risk/protec-
tive factors examined. In turn, we discuss
findings on maternal psychopathology, mater-
nal and child cognitive abilities, and the child
Addicted mothers’ offspring
sociodemographic characteristics of age, eth-
nicity, and gender. Rates of psychopathology
among addicted mothers’ offspring are con-
sidered next, followed by limitations of this
study and directions for future research.
psychosocial outcomes. These trends were
particularly pronounced among African Amer-
ican families, and consistent findings were
seen on two child outcomes: disruptive behav-
ior diagnoses and mothers’ reports on every-
day competence. In short, among African
American mothers, higher cognitive abilities
seemed linked with reports of relatively poor
adjustment among their offspring.
These apparently counterintuitive findings
might stem in part from variations in the
mothers’ social advantages and educational
background. Typically, scores on vocabulary-
based measures such as the PPVT-R are influ-
enced by individuals’ levels of education.
Thus, one might conjecture that the African-
American mothers with high cognitive ability
scores had more privileged backgrounds than
others, and that drug addiction among these
mothers may have been related to relatively
greater psychopathology, greater censure or os-
tracism from their upwardly mobile families,
and/or simply more feelings of personal failure.
Trends such as these may also involve spe-
cific parenting behaviors among the more in-
telligent mothers, as suggested by Goodman,
Simonoff, and Stevenson (1995) who ob-
tained findings similar to ours. In their recent
epidemiological study of 11–13-year-old chil-
dren, these authors found that although high
child intelligence was protective in terms of
child psychopathology, high levels of intelli-
gence among parents was linked with greater
child symptomatology as indexed by both par-
ents’ and school reports. In discussing their
results, Goodman and colleagues speculated
that bright parents may exert excessive pres-
sure on children to succeed intellectually and
academically, and/or may display other behav-
iors that engender maladjustment in children
such as tendencies toward overprotectiveness.
Our findings with child cognitive abilities
indicated three main effects, each in relation
to mothers’ reports on children’s functioning.
Children’s cognitive abilities were negatively
associated with maternal reports on adaptive
behavior problems as well as both internaliz-
ing and externalizing symptoms. The findings
suggest two underlying possibilities. First,
high intelligence may have served as a protec-
tive factor (or low intelligence as a vulnerabil-
Risk and protective factors
Of the maternal composites examined here,
maternal sensation seeking was associated
with diagnoses of disruptive behavior disor-
ders in children and maternal psychiatric
illness was linked with mothers’ reports of
symptoms, as well as with problems in every-
heightened vulnerability among offspring of
particularly troubled mothers may reflect ge-
netic influences (Rutter, 1990), parents’ role
modeling of dysfunctional behaviors (Dow-
ney & Coyne, 1990; Cummings & Cicchetti,
1990; Patterson, 1982), and/or disturbances in
distressed mothers’ parenting behaviors (see
McLoyd, 1990). In addition, the trends docu-
mented may reflect, in part, psychiatrically af-
fected mothers’ tendencies to view their off-
spring in a relatively negative light (see
Fergusson, Lynskey, & Horwood, 1993; Re-
nouf & Kovacs, 1993).
Results of this study also suggested that
coexisting forms of maternal disturbance—
high psychiatric illness along with high sensa-
tion seeking—exacerbated risk to offspring.
These findings are consistent with other find-
ings among children of psychiatrically af-
fected mothers. In comparing depressed moth-
ers with and without personality disorders,
for instance, Radke–Yarrow and colleagues
found that the former tend to be more critical
and psychologically unavailable in interac-
tions with their offspring (DeMulder, Tarullo,
1995) and that children’s problems on the
CBCL were strongly associated with mothers’
scores on dimensional assessments of person-
ality disorder (Radke–Yarrow & Klimes–
Our findings on maternal cognitive ability
indicated that as compared to mothers with
relatively low cognitive competence, those
with higher abilities had children with poorer
S. S. Luthar et al.
ity factor) given that IQ is linked with chil-
dren’s coping abilities as well as with success
experiences at school (e.g., Luthar, Woolston,
Sparrow, Zimmerman, & Riddle, 1995; Ly-
nam, Moffitt, & Stouthamer–Loeber, 1993;
Masten et al., 1988). Alternatively or addi-
tionally, the mothers’ perceptions may have
been colored somewhat by their children’s in-
telligence, wherein they viewed bright chil-
dren more positively than others.
Interaction effects were also found involv-
ing child cognitive abilities with ethnicity:
links between child intelligence and both in-
ternalizing and externalizing symptoms were
stronger among Caucasian than among minor-
ity children. Rather than indicating protective
effects of high intelligence, the data showed
that low cognitive skills were linked with
heightened vulnerability among Caucasian,
but not African American youth. Again, these
findings may reflect more negative percep-
tions among mothers of the less intelligent
Caucasian children, and/or relatively poor
functioning among the children themselves.
Interpretability of our various findings on
cognitive abilities is constrained by measure-
ment issues, since assessments were based on
a single measure of receptive vocabulary
among both children and mothers. Previous
research has, however, yielded promising
findings regarding the validity of the measure
we used, the PPVT-R, as an index of global
cognitive abilities among disadvantaged sam-
ples. For example, in research from the eight-
site Infant Health and Development Program
(Brooks–Gunn et al., 1996) where the PPVT-
R was used to assess mothers’ cognitive abili-
ties, scores on this instrument shared substan-
tial variance with maternal educational level.
Similarly, studies of disadvantaged youth
have found similar correlates for children’s
receptive vocabulary and for other cognitive
indices including standardized achievement
tests as well as measures of abilities (Luster &
McAdoo, 1994; Walker et al., 1994). Finally,
confidence in our findings on cognitive abili-
ties is buttressed by the previously cited find-
ings by Goodman et al. (1995) that, whereas
high child IQ was protective in nature, high
parental intelligence was linked with greater
emotional disturbance among offspring.
With regard to the various child sociodem-
ographic indices examined, results of this
study showed that the child’s age was linked
with increasing rates of Affective/Anxiety di-
agnoses as well as with poorer levels of social
competence. Viewed in tandem with previous
work with infant and preschool children of
drug abusers (see Hawley & Disney, 1992;
Mayes & Bornstein, 1997), these trends sug-
gest that outcomes among addicted mothers’
offspring may deteriorate the longer the child
lives with the mother. This assumption is
consistent with findings with other psychiat-
rically disturbed mothers. Cummings and Da-
vies (1994), for example, report increasingly
strong relations between maternal depression
and child behavior problems as children get
older, reflecting accruing risks with increas-
ingly adverse effects on child functioning as
offspring live longer with their disturbed care-
Our findings with ethnicity indicated that
for both disruptive behavior diagnoses and so-
cial competence—as rated by the child and
the mother—African American children were
at an advantage relative to Caucasians. These
findings too have precedents in the literature.
In their 3 year longitudinal study of African
American and Caucasian youth in high crime
neighborhoods, for example, Peterson and
colleagues (1994) found that as compared
to Caucasian parents, minority parents had
stronger norms against deviant behaviors
among their offspring. Similarly, Baldwin and
colleagues (1993) showed that within groups
of only low SES families, African American
children had better mental health than Cauca-
sians. These authors speculated that minority
groups, having had a long history of disadvan-
tage in this country, may have developed
more effective ways of coping with chronic
disadvantage over the years. Alternatively, the
negative connotations of living in poverty
might be felt more keenly by Caucasians as
compared to African Americans for whom
there is a greater precedence of others living
in similar circumstances. Similar explanations
might be offered to account for the findings
that in our largely underprivileged sample,
African American children were reported to
have had less maladjustment than others.
Addicted mothers’ offspring
Our failure to detect gender differences
across major psychiatric disorders flies in the
face of other trends in the literature. In gen-
eral, boys have higher rates of disruptive dis-
orders, and girls more often have internalizing
disorders such as depression (Cicchetti &
Toth, 1995; Kazdin, 1987). On the other hand,
our findings with substance abusers’ children
mirror data on addicted adults. Research has
shown that while there do exist some gender
differences in profiles of psychiatric disorders
among drug addicts, the magnitude of these
differences is less than it is in the general pop-
ulation (Robins & Regier, 1991; Rounsaville,
Weissman, Kleber, & Wilber, 1982). This at-
tenuation of gender differences may, in part,
reflect the high psychosocial adversity that
addicts face (Luthar, Glick, Zigler, & Rounsa-
ville, 1993). In other words, given the host of
difficulties they encounter, female addicts
may develop not only the typically “female”
disorders such as depression, but also the
more “male” diagnoses such as antisocial per-
sonality disorder (and the converse for males).
Similar explanations might account for the
paucity of gender differences here among ad-
adolescent and adolescent youth (Cohen et al.,
1993). As compared with rates in this report,
it is clear that addicted mothers’ offspring
demonstrated markedly greater vulnerability
to psychopathology with respect to various
disorders. For example, rates of major depres-
sion were 19.3% in the present study as com-
pared to incidence rates of 3.3% among
10–16-year-old children in the population,
and alcohol abuse/dependence rates were
5.0% here, versus 1.7% in the population.
Viewed along with reports by Hill and
Muka (1996) and by Hammen and colleagues
(Hammen, 1991; Hammen, Burge, Burney, &
Adrian, 1990), our findings suggest that chil-
dren of drug abusing mothers are not substan-
tially more dysfunctional than offspring of
other psychiatrically ill mothers. The investi-
gations by Hill and Hammen each sampled
children in a similar age range (i.e., 8–18
years) and both involved assessments based
on the Kiddie-SADS. (Both samples also in-
cluded multiple children per family in some
instances.) Whereas 61% of addicted mothers’
offspring in the present study had at least one
psychiatric disorder, comparable rates of 60%
were documented by Hill and Muka (1996)
among at-risk children in families with a high
density of female alcoholism (typically, the
mothers were affected). Hammen and col-
leagues’ studies involving depressed mothers
revealed still higher rates of child disorders:
at least one diagnosis occurred among 82%
and 72% of children of mothers with unipolar
and bipolar depression, respectively. Interest-
ingly, even among those depressed mothers
who had no lifetime comorbid substance
abuse (this was true of most mothers in Ham-
men’s study), 73% of their children had at
least one diagnosis (Hammen, 1991).
Obviously, inferences based on compari-
sons across studies can be tentative at best.
Although all three studies report on lifetime
diagnoses integrating both mothers’ and chil-
dren’s reports on the same assessment instru-
ment (the Kiddie SADS), other aspects of
methodology varied (e.g., the Hill and Ham-
men studies involved primarily Caucasian and
middle-class families, and sample sizes were
smaller than those in the present study). Simi-
larly, although all three studies involved treat-
Extent of psychopathology among addicted
The primary objective within this study was
to examine risk/protective factors for psycho-
pathology among addicted mothers’ offspring
rather than to quantify the degree of disturb-
ance shown by these children. Nevertheless,
parallel data published by other research
groups permit two tentative inferences regard-
ing the rates we detected. These inferences—
one of which is unsurprising but the other
possibly less so—are first, that addicted moth-
ers’ offspring show greater disturbance than
youth in the general population, and second,
that the degree of child psychopathology asso-
ciated with maternal drug abuse is not neces-
sarily greater than that linked with other
forms of maternal psychiatric dysfunction.
Estimated rates of DSM-III-R childhood
disorders in the general population are avail-
able in a recent epidemiological study of pre-
S. S. Luthar et al.
ment seeking mothers, one might conjecture
that among nontreatment seeking individuals,
substance abusing women (and their children)
would fare more poorly than would their de-
pressed or alcoholic counterparts. These cave-
ats notwithstanding, it is striking that despite
the multiple and serious adversities that chil-
dren of addicted mothers in this study faced,
their overall psychiatric functioning does not
appear to be worse than that reported among
children of alcoholic and/or depressed moth-
ers from far less disadvantaged families.
Raising as they do, inconsistencies with
widely held stereotypes about drug abusing
mothers—that they are inimical to their chil-
dren’s welfare far more than are other psychi-
atrically affected mothers (Luthar, Cushing,
& McMahon, 1997)—these findings clearly
warrant careful empirical scrutiny in the fu-
ture. Invaluable would be research efforts
aimed at teasing apart those effects of mater-
nal psychopathology that are linked with drug
abuse per se as opposed to those associated
with common comorbid problems, such as
maternal depression or alcoholism. Such ques-
tions regarding specificity of effects might be
effectively pursued by using multiple demo-
graphically matched groups of mothers, such
as those with addiction only, those with addic-
tion and affective disorders, and those with
affective disorders alone.
A final concern vis-a `-vis rates of childhood
disorders is the question of whether children
of opioid- versus cocaine-abusing mothers
might reflect differential profiles of psycho-
pathology. Whereas analyses in this study in-
dicated few differences in this regard, conclu-
siveness of findings is limited by the small
sample size and the possibility of Type II er-
rors. On the other hand, it should be noted
that previous family genetic studies have es-
tablished that among drug abusers’ families,
there is little evidence for specificity of trans-
mission of disorders. In other words, although
cocaine and opioid abusers themselves show
somewhat varying profiles of comorbid psy-
chopathology, addicts’ relatives typically show
heightened risk for several disorders and not
just the particular psychiatric problems evi-
denced by the affected proband (see Ripple &
Luthar (1996) for a review).
Limitations and future directions
As suggested in the preceding discussions, sa-
lient among the limitations of this study is the
lack of control group data. From the stand-
point of the central objectives of this study—
that is, to examine risk and protective factors
among addicted mothers’ offspring—the ab-
sence of comparison data is not a limiting
factor (see Cicchetti & Toth, 1995; Luthar,
1993). Comparison groups are, however,
helpful in ascertaining where the psychosocial
adjustment of at-risk samples might lie on
some “real world” scales (Luthar & Zigler,
1991). In future investigations, it would be
useful to determine how the degree of psy-
chopathology identified among addicts’ off-
spring might compare with disorders among
offspring of underprivileged, disenfranchised
mothers with and/or without other psychiatric
A second limitation lies in the cross-sec-
tional nature of this research, which precludes
any definitive conclusions about causality.
We are presently conducting follow-up as-
sessments on the cohort of children discussed
here, and scrutiny of cross-lagged associations
with these data could be invaluable in further
illuminating causal links suggested here.
Third, there was a fairly wide spread in
chronological age among children in this
study. Recognizing this, age was controlled
for in all analyses about risk and protective
factors. In the future, however, it would be
useful to explore issues such as those raised
here using a sample with a narrower age
Fourth, it would be useful to reexamine
trends suggested here on maternal and child
cognitive abilities using other measures of in-
telligence. Notwithstanding the previously
cited evidence on the validity of the PPVT-R
among disadvantaged populations, this instru-
ment does assess a relatively limited aspect of
cognitive functioning and is not culture free.
For both theory and research, there could be
much value in further scrutiny of the appar-
ently contrary trends identified in this study
and others (Goodman et al., 1995): that where-
as high child intelligence can be protective in
terms of child psychopathology, high parental
Addicted mothers’ offspring
intelligence might serve as a vulnerability
In future research, there would also be
value to examining in greater depth the “prox-
imal” aspects of mothers’ psychosocial func-
tioning—parenting behaviors that directly af-
fect children—in relation to child outcomes.
Of particular interest would be disciplinary
patterns, child maltreatment, and expressions
of nurturance (Cicchetti & Lynch, 1995; Lu-
thar et al., 1997) as potential mediators of the
effects of maternal substance abuse and co-
morbid psychopathology on children. Also
useful would be data on the children’s living
arrangements since their birth, given that ad-
dicts’ offspring are often placed in the care
of relatives or in foster care for considerable
lengths of time (Levy & Rutter, 1992). Inclu-
sion of such indices might bolster the predict-
ive power of family-based models of chil-
dren’s adjustment beyond levels that were
achieved in this study (R2values between .23
Final directions for future research would
be to sample addicted mothers other than just
those seeking treatment, and to include pater-
nal characteristics in models such as those ex-
amined here (Phares & Compas, 1992; Rutter,
1990). While working with addicted individu-
als, however, it should be noted that substan-
tial logistical difficulties can occur in this
context. For example, our own research as
well as others’ (Goldstein et al., 1995; Wilens
et al., 1995b) has indicated that obtaining in-
terviews with addicted fathers is often diffi-
cult because many have little or no contact
with their children.
Whereas various methodological limita-
tions have been noted here, several features of
this research argue for its contributions to the
field. This is among the first published reports
by any research group on older children of
opioid- or cocaine-abusing mothers, involving
comprehensive assessments of psychiatric and
psychosocial functioning of both mothers and
children, with psychometric indicators that at-
test, in general, to the veracity of the data ob-
tained. Given the paucity of prior research on
this population, findings of this study might
serve as guides for future research incorporat-
ing more sophisticated and more resource-in-
tensive designs, including, for example, larger
samples with appropriate comparison groups,
and comprehensive longitudinal assessments
of psychosocial and cognitive functioning.
Summary and Conclusions
In summary, our examination of risk and pro-
tective factors among addicted mothers’ off-
spring indicated the following trends. First,
mothers’ overall psychiatric illness was asso-
ciated with their reports of symptomatology
and social competence among their children,
and mothers who were highly sensation seek-
ing more often had children with disruptive
behavior diagnoses. Second, the combination
of high psychiatric distress and high sensation
seeking among mothers increased the likeli-
hood of disruptive problems among children.
Third, higher levels of maternal cognitive
abilities—particularly among African Ameri-
cans—were associated with reports of rela-
tively poor psychosocial outcomes among
children, possibly reflecting greater dysfunc-
tion among bright minority mothers. By con-
trast, among children (only Caucasians), low
cognitive abilities were linked with high
maternal reports of symptomatology. These
findings add to a growing body of evidence
underscoring the need to consider intelli-
gence–adjustment links not only in terms of
main effects but also in interactive models
that incorporate other demographic and psy-
chosocial indices (White, Moffitt, & Silva,
Fourth, in regard to the child sociodemo-
graphic attributes, relatively few gender dif-
ferences were found on children’s psychiatric
functioning. Older children, however, showed
more problems than did younger offspring,
ostensibly reflecting the greater length of time
they had endured significant adversities in
their lives. Finally, children and mothers of
African American (as opposed to Caucasian)
descent had comparatively positive outcomes.
These findings are congruent with other re-
search on disadvantaged families which have
been viewed as suggesting that over time, mi-
nority individuals may have developed some-
what better skills at coping with life under
S. S. Luthar et al.
underprivileged circumstances. The constella-
tion of findings obtained here underscores the
importance of further empirical study of older
children of addicted mothers and provides
specific directions for future prospective re-
search on this vulnerable population.
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