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Integrated programs for mothers with substance abuse issues: A systematic review of studies reporting on parenting outcomes

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Integrated treatment programs (those that include on-site pregnancy-, parenting-, or child-related services with addiction services) were developed to break the intergenerational cycle of addiction, dysfunctional parenting, and poor outcomes for mothers and children, yet there has been no systematic review of studies of parenting outcomes. As part of larger systematic review to examine the effectiveness of integrated programs for mothers with substance abuse issues, we performed a systematic review of studies published from 1990 to 2011 with data on parenting outcomes. Literature search strategies included online bibliographic database searches, checking printed sources, and requests to researchers. Studies were included if all participants were mothers with substance abuse problems at baseline, the treatment program included at least one specific substance use treatment and at least one parenting or child service, and there were quantitative data on parenting outcomes. We summarized data on parenting skills and capacity outcomes. There were 24 cohort studies, 3 quasi-experimental studies, and 4 randomized trials. In the three randomized trials comparing integrated programs to addiction treatment-as-usual (N = 419), most improvements in parenting skills favored integrated programs and most effect sizes indicated that this advantage was small, ds = -0.02 to 0.94. Results for child protection services involvement did not differ by group. In the three studies that examined factors associated with treatment effects, parenting improvements were associated with attachment-based parenting interventions, children residing in the treatment facility, and improvements in maternal mental health. This is the first systematic review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of integrated programs on parenting. The limited available evidence supports integrated programs, as findings suggest that they are associated with improvements in parenting skills. However, more research is required comparing integrated programs to addiction treatment-as-usual. This review highlights the need for improved methodology, study quality, and reporting to improve our understanding of how best to meet the parenting needs of women with substance abuse issues.
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RESEARCH Open Access
Integrated programs for mothers with substance
abuse issues: A systematic review of studies
reporting on parenting outcomes
Alison Niccols
1*
, Karen Milligan
2
, Wendy Sword
3
, Lehana Thabane
4
, Joanna Henderson
5
and Ainsley Smith
6
Abstract
Background: Integrated treatment programs (those that include on-site preg nancy-, parenting-, or child-related
services with addiction services) were developed to break the intergenerational cycle of addiction, dysfunctional
parenting, and poor outcomes for mothers and children, yet there has been no systematic review of studies of
parenting outcomes.
Objectives: As part of larger systematic review to examine the effectiveness of integrated programs for mothers
with substanc e abuse issues, we performed a systematic review of studies published from 1990 to 2011 with data
on parenting outcomes.
Methods: Literature search strategies included online bibliographic database searches, checking printed sources,
and requests to researchers. Studies were inclu ded if all participants were mothers with substance abuse problems
at baseline, the treatment program included at least one specific substance use treatment and at least one
parenting or child service, and there were quantitative data on parenting outcomes. We summarized data on
parenting skills and capacity outcomes.
Results: There were 24 cohort studies, 3 quasi-experimental studies, and 4 randomized trials. In the three
randomized trials comparing integrated programs to addiction treatment-as-usual (N = 419), most improvements in
parenting skills favored integrated programs and most effect sizes indicated that this advantage was small, ds=
-0.02 to 0.94. Results for child protection services involvement did not differ by group. In the three studies that
examined factors associated with treatment effects, parenting improvements were associated with attachment-
based parent ing interventions, children residing in the treatment facility, and improvements in maternal mental
health.
Conclusions: This is the first systematic review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of integrated programs on
parenting. Th e limited available evidence supports integrated programs, as findings suggest that they are
associated with improvements in parenting skills. However, more research is required comparing integrated
programs to addiction treatment-as-usual. This review highlights the need for improved methodology, study
quality, and reporting to improve our understanding of how best to meet the parenting needs of women with
substance abuse issues.
Keywords: Women, Mothers, Substance use, Parenting, Integrated programs
* Correspondence: niccols@hhsc.ca
1
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster
University, 280 Holbrook Building, McMaster Childrens Hospital-Chedoke
Site, Hamilton, Ontario, Box 2000 L9N 3Z5, Canada
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/9/1/14
© 2012 Niccols et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribu tion License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which perm its unr estricted use, distribution, and reproduction in
any medium, provided the original work is prop erly cited.
Background
Substance abuse among women is a serious pro blem for
parenting and represents considerable human and finan-
cial burden to society. Estimates suggest that 50-80% of
child welfare cases involve a parent who abuses alcohol
or other drugs and mothers make up the majority o f
substance-abusing parents in the child welfare system
[1,2]. In the United States, up to 70% of women in sub-
stance abuse treatment have children [2]. Rates of sub-
stance abuse in w omen have been increasing [3] and
substance a buse in women also is associated with a
unique co nstel lation of ri sk fact ors and ne eds, including
greater vulnerability to adverse physiological conse-
quences than men, greater prevalence of mental health
problems, histories of physical or sexual abuse, serious
medical problems, poor nutrition, relationship problems
including domestic violence, and deficits in social sup-
port [4,5]. The unique risk factor s and prese nting needs
of women have resulted in the development of wom en-
specific comprehen sive treatment models [3]. However,
in addition to having gender-specific needs, women with
substance abuse issues also have unique needs as
mothers.
Research has shown that women who abuse sub-
stances may have difficulties providing sta ble, nurturing
environments for their children compounded by challen-
ging life circumstances, including severe economic a nd
social problems, such as lack of affordable housing and
homelessness [6]. Their children are at greater risk f or
impaired physical growth, development, and health,
poor cognitive functioning and school performance,
emotional and behavioural problems, psychiatric disor-
ders, and substance use themselves [7,8]. Despite their
best intentions, women with substance abuse issues are
at risk fo r a wide range of parenting deficits [9]. Parent-
ing ca n be operationalized as skills (e.g., interacting sen-
sitively, facilitating sleeping and eating routines),
attitudes (e.g., empathy, positive approaches to beha-
viour guidance), knowledge (understanding child devel-
opment), or capacity (e.g., maternal custody, la ck of
need for child protection services involv ement). Parent-
ing among mothers with substance abuse issues may be
impaired by the primacy of satisfying their addictio n
over the welfare of themselves and their children, the
emotional lability that is associated with into xication or
withdrawal, the impairment from chronic drug use, and
their consequent unavailability to their children [9].
Further, women with substance abuse issues often have
high levels of comorbid psychopathology and personality
problems [10-13], which can impair emotional respon-
siveness and c ognitive abilities and negatively impact
parenting [9].
As maternal substance abuse is a growing problem,
there is a n urgent need to identify effective interven-
tions. Trea tment for mot hers with substanc e abuse
issues and their children may re present an important
opportunity for breaking t he intergenerational cycle of
addiction and dysfunction and improving parenting.
However, women with substance abuse issues report dif-
ficulties using conventional systems of care (for reasons
including f ear of losing custody of chil dren, guilt,
stigma, and lack of transportation), and reque st compre-
hensive services provided in a caring, one-stop setting
[14]. Given the barriers, risks, and outcome implications,
researchers, clinicians, and policy makers recommend
that substance abuse treatment programs address
womens needs as well as t heir childrens needs through
comprehensive, integrated services in centralized set-
tings f or both women and children [14]. This recogni-
tion has resulted in the development of numerous
integrated treatment programs (those that include on-
site pregnancy-, parenting-, or child-related services
with addiction services), both resid ential and outpatient.
Integrated residential programs or ther apeutic commu-
nities offer long-term (15-18 months) treatment ser-
vices to women and their children. Both types of
programs typically are comprehensive and include group
and individual addiction treatment, maternal mental
health servic es, trauma tre atment, parenting education
and counseling, life skills training, prenatal education,
medical and nutrition services, education and employ-
ment assistance, child care, childrens services, and
aftercare.
Parenting is an important outcome of intervention
because it impacts child outcomes [15]. Studies of par-
ent ing interventions with other at-risk populatio ns have
shown that improving parenting can improve outcomes
for children [16-18]. For example, early prevention pro-
grams designed to e nhance protective factors (i.e., posi-
tive parent-child interaction and p arent ing behaviour)
and re duce risk factors (e.g., hostile, negative, or over-
reactive parenting) prevent later disruptive behaviour
dis orders in children and adolescents at risk [19]. Thus,
the risks to children of women with substance abuse
issues could be minimized with intervention. If interven-
tion for mothers with substance abuse issues is success-
ful in improving parenting outcomes, it may reduce
costs (in terms of foster care placement, emergency
room visits, medical and psychiatric admissions, child
treatment, crime, etc.) and enhance healthcare and
social service delivery.
To date, no systematic reviews of quantitative studies
of parenting outcomes of integrated programs have been
conducted. Gender specific (i.e., women only) substance
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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use treatment was examined in one systematic review
and one meta-analysis. In their systematic review of 38
studies, Ashley, Marsden, and Brady [20] found that
programs with prenatal careorchildcarewereasso-
ciated with improved outcomes (substance use, mental
health, birth outcomes, employment, and health). Simi-
larly, in their meta-analysis, Orwin, Francisco, and Ber-
nichon [21] concluded that enhancing women-only
addiction treatment programs with prenatal care or
therapeutic child care added value above and beyond
the effects of standard women-only programs. Neither
of these reviews specifically focused on integrated pro-
grams or examined parenting outcomes, despite the
potential implications for prevention, harm reduction,
improving public health, and reducing the burden to
society.
We examined the effectivene ss of integrated programs
on parenting outcomes in a systematic review of rele-
vant studies. The specific research questions guiding
this systematic revi ew were: 1) Are integrated progr ams
more effective than addiction treatment-as-usual in
improving parenting outcomes?; and 2) Are some inte-
grated program characteristics associated with better
parenting outcomes than others?
Methods
Information sources and literature search
We used three main strategies to identify outcome stu-
dies of intervention programs for women with substance
abuse issues and their children: online bibliographic
database searches, checking printed sources, and
requests to researchers (cf., [22]). First, we searched
relevant bibliographic databases (PsycINFO, MedLine,
PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, Proquest Disserta-
tions, Sociological Abstracts, and C INAHL) for studies
published in English from 1990 to M ay 2011, using a
subject heading and keyword search for the terms sub-
stance abuse (or substance use or addict* or a lcohol*)
and intervention (or treatment or therapeutic or rehab*)
and women (or mother) and child (or infant) and men-
tal health and prenatal (or parent*), singly and in combi-
nation. Secondly, we examined reference lists of
retrieved articles for potentially relev ant documents. In
addition, we manually searched relevant journals in the
area (Addiction, Addictive Behaviours, International
Journal of the Addictions, Journal of Drug Issues, Journal
of Psyc hoactive Drugs, Journal of Substance Abuse , Jour-
nal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Journal of Substance
Use, and Substance Use and Misuse). Documents that
appeared to be relevant on the basis of titles or abstracts
were retrieved. Finally, we searched for grey literature
(technical reports, clinical trials registry, unpublished
data). All researchers identified through these searches,
as well as researchers presenting at relevant conferen ces
identified using Google and Cross Currents (Upcoming
Events), were contacted by email to re quest any relevant
published or unpublished data. Of the 200 researchers
identified and emailed, 48% responded and 28 additional
studies were identified.
Eligibility criteria and study selection
Eligibility criteria were based on our working definition
of integrated programs being substance abuse treatment
programs that provide comprehensive services that
address substance abuse as well as maternal and child
well being through prenatal se rvices, parenting pro-
gram s, child care, and/or other child-centred services in
a centralized setting. Therefore, we included studies in
our larger systematic review if all of the following cri-
teria were met:
1) all partici pants were women who were pregnant or
parenting;
2) all participants had substance abuse problems at
baseline;
3) the treatment program included at least one speci-
fic substance use treatment (e.g., individual or group
the rapy, methadone) and at least one parent ing or child
(< 16 years) treatment service (e.g., prenatal care, child
care, parenting classes);
4) the study design was randomized, quasi-experimen-
tal, or cohort; and
5) ther e was quantitative data on parenting or other
outcomes as part of the larger study (length of stay,
treatment completion, maternal substance use, ma ternal
well-being, or child well-being).
Data extraction
Upon completion of the literature search, we developed
a codebook based on theoretical treatment models, lit-
erature review, and data availability. We collected data
on dependent variable characteristics (type of outcome
measure, type of data), and outcome statistics (e.g., F
value, p value) and coded study context (author, docu-
ment date, type of document, country), methodology
(sample size, attrition, study design), participant charac-
teristics (age, marital status, education, employment,
income, substance abuse history, previous substance
abuse treatment, mental and physical health, involve-
ment with the legal system), child characteristics (age,
custody, involvement with child protection services,
positive toxicology at birth), and treatment program
characteristics ( population serv ed, planned length of
treatment, intensity of treatment, location, services).
Project staff and investigators pilot tested the codebook,
which we revised based on consensus before formally
coding the studies. In a coding policy manual, we
rec orded variables that were added or deleted and deci-
sions regarding clarification of specific variables.
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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A trained research assistant (AS) coded each study
and met frequentl y with the principal investigator (KM)
during the development of the code book and earl y stage
of coding. Both AS and KM coded 20% of studies. We
calculated Cohens Kappa and percent agreement for all
variables. Th ere was 100% agreement for identification
of de pendent variables and, for client and program vari-
ables, 94% mean agreement for continuous variables and
a Kappa of 0.97 for categorical variables. We resolved
discrepancies by consensus.
There were considerable missing data (especially on
client charac teristics and program services) and limited
quantitative data on outcomes (e.g., standard deviations,
sample sizes). In an attempt to obtain missing data, we
contacted 89 researchers up to three times each. Our
attempts to contact researchers occurred throughout the
coding process up until data analyses were completed.
In total, 79% responded, with 37% providing some addi-
tional data (Additional file 1).
Study quality
To assess the quality of randomized trials, we used the
Jadad Scale [23], which is widely used in the medical lit-
erature. On the Jadad Scale, stud ies are rated on a scale
from 0 to 5, with the highest possible score (5) given for
those with descriptions of the randomization process, an
appropriate method of randomization, double-blinding,
an appropriate method of double-blinding, and withdra-
wal and dropouts. To assess the quality of non-rando-
mized studies, we used the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale
(NOS;[24]).OntheNOS,studiesareratedonascale
from 0 to 9 on the basis of three main issues: study
group selection, group comparability , and o utcome
ascertainment. NOS content validity and inter-rater
reliability have been established and further evaluation is
being conducted [24]. A trained research assistant (AS)
and Masters student (JL) coded study quality. Inter-
rater reliability, based on 16% (19) of the 121 eligible
studies, was high, Kappa = 0.81. We resolved discrepan-
cies by consensus.
Calculating effect sizes
In order to facilitate our summary and comparison of
studies, effect sizes were calculated, where possible. We
trans formed results from each study to the standar dized
mean difference (Cohens d) and used conventional defi-
nitions of effect size ( d), i.e., small = 0.20 or less (i.e.,
one fifth or less of one standard deviation difference);
medium = 0.50; large = 0.80 (i.e., four fifths or more of
one standard deviation difference) [25].
Program characteristics as moderators
We reviewed studies that examined factors that may
have moderated the effect of treatment on outcomes.
Specifically, we e xamined parenting effect sizes of stu-
dies in relation to program characteristi cs (e.g., residen-
tial or not, types of program services provided, targeted
substance, whether or not children reside), as these
potential moderating factors have been examined in pre-
vious studies [26]. Also, we reviewed studies comparing
two types of integrated programs to examine which spe-
cific integrated program characteristic s are associ ated
with better parenting outcomes than others.
Results
Study selection
In total, 329 studies were retrieved and coded for elig-
ibility. Using the eligibility criteria, we excluded 207 and
considered 122 studies eligible for inclusion in the larger
systematic review. Two randomized trials were not
included in our review because their samples included
men [27,28] and two other randomized trials were not
included because they did not i nclude addiction treat-
ment [29,30]. Based on a random sample of 20% of the
studies, inter-rater reliability for eligibility coding was
high, Kappa = 0.81. We resolved di scre pancies by con-
sensus. We e stimated the completeness of the search
using the ca pture re-capture method [31]. Based on this
method, the estimated number of missing articles is
eight (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2, 24), which sug-
gests a 90% capture rate (i.e., the identified studies cover
90% of the search horizon). This reasonably high cap-
ture rat e suggests that we retrieved a sufficient number
of studies to avoid bias in the results of the systematic
review. Of the 122 eligible studies, 91 studies did not
have quantitative data on parenting outcomes. Of the 31
studies with parenting data, 24 were cohort studies and
3 were quasi-experimental studies [32-34]. Therefore,
for the present review, we included four randomized
trials [35-39]. See Figure 1 for a flow diagram.
Study characteristics
Studies varied in terms of assessment times and parent-
ing measures. Parenting outcomes were assessed at vary-
ing time points (e.g., at prenatal intake, intake, 12
months postpartum, discharge, 6 weeks after discharge,
6 months after discharge). Three studies included mea-
sures of parenting skills (Parent-child Relationship
Inventory, Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire,
Working Model of the Child Interview, Parent Develop-
ment Interview, Nursing Child Assessment Satellite
Training) and one study examined parenting capacity
(child protection services involvement).
One study [35] involved pregnant women and the
other three studies involved mothers with children (an
average of 2 or 3). The average age was 29-36 years.
Most women had experienced trauma, had mental
health problems, and were unemployed, single mothers.
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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Client race varied among studies, reflecting the geo-
graphi c setting. Authors provided l ittle specific informa-
tiononthechildren,whowereofawideagerange
(infants to adolescents). Programs were 3-12 months
and had a high dropout rate.
Study quality
Jadad Scale scores for two of the randomized trials were
3, which is a moderate score [36,37]. Both studies were
described as randomized but were not double b lind as
participants were aware of the treatment allocation.
Intervent
i
on
f
or Mot
h
ers w
i
t
h
Su
b
stance A
b
use Issues
1
Figure 1. Flow diagram of studies screened, assessed, and included
Records identified through
database searching
(n = 733 )
Additional records identified
through other sources
(n = 129 )
Records after duplicates removed
(n = 862 )
Records screened
(n = 862 )
Full-text articles
assessed for eligibility
(n = 329 )
Studies included in
systematic review of
parenting outcomes
(n = 4)
Records excluded
(n = 534 )
Full-text articles excluded, with reasons (n = 207)
44 studies excluded because participants were not women who
were pregnant or parenting
6 studies excluded because the participants included men
6 studies excluded because the participants included women
who were not pregnant or parenting
5 studies excluded because not all participants had a substance
use problem at baseline
27 studies excluded because the program did not include a
substance use treatment service addressing substance use
specifically
16 studies excluded because the program did not include at
least one treatment service related to children
63 studies excluded because the study design was not
randomized, quasi-experimental, or cohort (e.g., cross-
sectional, qualitative, case study)
40 studies excluded because quantitative results for length of
stay, treatment completion, maternal substance use, maternal
well-bein
g,
or child well-bein
g
were not
p
rovided
Studies included in
larger quantitative
systematic review
(
n = 122
)
Full-text articles excluded, with reasons (n = 118)
91 studies excluded because they did not
provide parenting outcome data
27 studies excluded because the design was
not a randomized trial
Figure 1 Flow diagram of studies screened, assessed, and included.
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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They both provided descriptio ns of an appropriate
method of randomization and withdrawal and dropout s.
The Jadad Scale score for one other randomized trial
was2,whichisalowscore[38,39].Thestudywas
described as randomized and provided a description of
withdrawal and dropouts but was not double blind and
did not provide a descript ion of an appro priate method
of randomization. The Jadad Scale score for another
randomized trial was 1, which is a low score [35]. The
study was described as randomized but was not double
blind and did no t provide descriptions of an appropri ate
method of randomization and withdrawal and dropouts.
Are integrated programs more effective than addiction
treatment-as-usual in improving parenting outcomes?
There were three randomized trials comparing parenting
outcomes for clients participating in integrated pro-
grams and addiction treatment-as-usual [35-37]. As can
beseeninTable1,forthetwostudieswithdataon
measures of parenting s kills, dsrangedfrom0.00to
0.94 and most indicated greater pre-post improvements
in scores for integrated programs than addiction treat-
ment-a s-usual, but thi s advantage was typically small. In
the one study of child protection services involvement
[35], there were no group differences in pre-post
changes. Below we pro vide a narrative review of each o f
the three studies.
As part of the Washington State MOMS pro ject,
Huber [35] randomly assigned pregnant women with
substance abuse issues to an integrated residential pro-
gram, an integrated outpatient program, or a standard
outpatient program. The integrated programs included
prenata l care, maternal health care, parenting education
and support, and childrens services. Huber [35] found
no group differences in the percentage of clients
involved with child protection services. Child protection
services involvement appeared t o incre ase for all groups
from intake in the prenatal p eriod to one year postpar-
tum, but did not report p values.
Luthar and Suchman [36] randomly assigned mothers
(of children under 16 years old) at three methadone
clinics in New Haven, Connecticut, to standard treat-
ment or standard treatment plus a relational psy-
chotherapy mothers group. Standard treatment included
addiction counseling, pharmacological intervention
(methodone), case management to assist with basic
needs such a s housing, welfare bene fits, and legal aid.
Maltreatment risk was assessed by maternal report on
the P arental Acceptance Rejection s Questionnaire and
parenting skills were assessed using the Parent-child
Relationship Inventory. At the end of the 6-month treat-
ment, mothers in integrated treatment had significantly
more improved affective interaction scores than mothers
in standard treatment and there w as a trend toward
more decreased maltreatment risk scores and more
improvement in parenting satisfaction scores for
mothers in integrated treatment than for mothers in
standard treatment. At 6-month follow-up, group differ-
ences were not significant but there was a trend toward
more decreased maltreatment risk scores and more
improvement in affective interaction scores for mothers
in integrated treatment than for mothers in standard
treatment. Limitations of this study include the small
sample size, unknown variability in the standard treat-
ment, changes to the integrated program over the
course of the study, and dosage diff erences between the
two groups.
With another sample, Luthar et al. [37] randomly
assigned mothers (of children under 16 years old) at
three methadone clinics in New Haven, Connecticut, to
standard treatment plus recovery training or standard
treatment plus a relational psychotherapy mothers
group. Maltreatment risk was assessed by maternal
report on the Parental Accep tance Rejections Question-
naire and parenting skills were assessed using the Par-
ent-child Relationship Inventory. At the end of the 6-
month treatment and at 6-month follow-up, mothers in
integrated treatmen t had more decrease d maltreatment
risk scores and more improvements in affective interac-
tion and parenting satisfaction, but group differences
were not significant.
Are some integrated program characteristics associated
with better parenting outcomes than others?
Examination of parenting effect sizes (where available)
among the 31 studies with parenting outcom e data sug-
gested that re sidential programs appeared to have larger
effects than outpatient programs and programs with a
maternal mental health service appeared to have larger
effects than programs that did not offer a maternal
mental health service. Only two cohort studies and one
randomized trial specifically examined factors associated
with parenting outcomes. Kern et al. [40] examined cor-
relations between changes in various domains of parent-
ing stress over the course of treatment and reduction in
depressive symptoms . Findingsindicatedthatreduction
in depressive symptoms was significantly correlated with
improvements in parenting competence, isolatio n,
attachment, and role restriction. Knight and Wallace
[41] found that when children resided in the treatment
facility, mothers were five times more likely to have cus-
tody of their children at the end of treatment.
In a study comparing two integrated programs, Such-
man and colleagues [38,39] randomly assigned mothers
(of children under 3 years old) in outpatient substance
abuse treatment to the Mothers and Toddlers Program
(MTP; a n attachment-based parenting intervention) or
the Parent Education Program (PE; case management
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Table 1 Randomized trials examining parenting outcomes of integrated programs
Study n Groups Measure Time
point
Effect
Size
(SE)
p Treatment
Group %
Control
Group
%
Study
Quality
Huber
[35]
Treatment:82
Control:77
Integrated residential treatment vs
standard outpatient treatment
CPS
Involvement
Prenatal
(Intake)
22 14 1/5
1 Year
Postpartum
46 47
Huber
[35]
Treatment:
81
Control: 77
Integrated outpatient treatment vs
standard outpatient treatment
CPS
Involvement
Prenatal
(Intake)
17 14 1/5
1 Year
Postpartum
46 47
Luthar &
Suchman
[36]
Treatment:
32
Control: 20
Treatment:
28
Control: 19
Standard methadone treatment plus
maternal psychotherapy vs. standard
methadone treatment
PARQ
b
Discharge 0.54
(0.29)
0.063 3/5
6-month
follow-up
0.57
(0.30)
0.060
PCRI
c
-
Affective
Interaction
Discharge 0.94
(0.30)
0.002
6-month
follow-up
0.54
(0.30)
0.074
PCRI - Limit
Setting
Discharge 0.08
(0.29)
0.779
6-month
follow-up
0.20
(0.30)
0.502
PCRI -
Autonomy
Discharge 0.13
(0.29)
0.649
6-month
follow-up
0.33
(0.31)
0.270
PCRI -
Parenting
Support
Discharge 0.00
(0.29)
1.000
6-month
follow-up
0.21
(0.30)
0.481
PCRI -
Parenting
Satisfaction
Discharge 0.49
(0.29)
0.090
6-month
follow-up
0.35
(0.30)
0.242
Luthar et
al. [37]
Treatment:
60
Control: 67
Standard methadone treatment plus
maternal psychotherapy vs. Standard
methadone treatment plus recovery
training
PARQ Discharge 0.23
(0.18)
0.206 3/5
6-month
follow-up
0.13
(0.18)
0.471
PCRI -
Affective
Interaction
Discharge 0.11
(0.18)
0.527
6-month
follow-up
0.15
(0.18)
0.400
PCRI -
Parenting
Satisfaction
Discharge 0.10
(0.18)
0.590
6-month
follow up
0.18
(0.18)
0.313
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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and child guidance pamphlets). Quality of mental repre-
sentations of parenting was assessed using the Working
Model of the Child Interview, careg iving behavior was
assessed using the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite
Training, and maternal reflec tive fu nctioning was
assessed using the Parent Development Interview. As
can be seen in Table 1, ds ranged from -0.22 to 0.70
and most indicated greater improvements in scores for
attachment-based parenting intervention than parent
education, but this advantage was typically small. At the
end of the 3-month treatment, mothers in the MPT had
significantly more improved scores for caregiving beha-
vior and reflective functioning and a trend for more
improved sensitivity score than mothers in the PE
group. At 6-week follow-up, there were no significant
group differences in improvements in scores.
Discussion
The purpose of this systematic review was to examine
the effectiveness of integrated treatment programs on
parenting outcomes. In three randomized trials, most
effects favored integrated programs over addiction treat-
ment-as-usual and most effects were small. As such,
available evidence suggests that integrated programs
may be associated with a small advantage over addiction
treatment-as-usual in parenting skills outcomes. There
were no group differences reported for changes in the
proportion of clients involved with child protection ser-
vices. Unfortunately, there were no randomized trials
comparing integrated progr ams to addiction treatment-
as-usual on parenting attitudes, parenting knowledge, or
maternal custody. In the three studies that e xamined
factors associated with treatment effects, parenting
Table 1 Randomized trials examining parenting outcomes of integrated programs (Continued)
Suchman
et al.
[38,39]
Treatment:
23
Control: 24
Outpatient substance abuse treatment
plus attachment-based parenting
intervention vs outpatient substance abuse
treatment plus parent education
WMCI
d
acceptance
Discharge -0.04
(0.29)
0.886 2/5
WMCI
involvement
Discharge 0.13
(0.29)
0.653
WMCI
coherence
Discharge 0.02
(0.29)
0.949
WMCI
openness
Discharge 0.04
(0.29)
0.897
WMCI
sensitivity
Discharge 0.50
(0.30)
0.092
WMCI quality
of
representations
6-week
follow-up
0.22
(0.29)
0.455
NCAST
e
caregiving
behavior
Discharge 0.70
(0.30)
0.020
6-week
follow-up
0.12
(0.29)
0.678
PDI
f
reflective
functioning
Discharge 0.61
(0.30)
0.042
6-week
follow-up
0.22
(0.29)
0.452
PDI self-
focused
reflective
functioning
6-week
follow-up
-0.22
(0.29)
0.452
PDI child-
focused
reflective
functioning
6-week
follow-up
0.03
(0.29)
0.93
a
CPS = Child Protection Services
b
PARQ = Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire - Maternal report of maltreatment risk
c
PCRI = Parent-child Relationship Inventory
d
WMCI = Working Model of the Child Interview
e
NCAST = The Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training
f
PDI = Parent Development Interview
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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Page 8 of 11
improvements were associated with attachment-based
parenting intervention, children residing in the treat-
ment facility, and improvements in maternal mental
health [38-41].
Implications
The findings of this systematic review are consistent
with those reported in previous reviews of s ubstance
abuse treatment for women [20,21], meta-analyses of
integrated programs showing their positive impact on
maternal mental health and birth outcomes [42,43], qua-
litative studies in which women stated that integrated
programs helped them gain insight into intergenera-
tional influences on parenting, how to strengthen emo-
tional bonds with children, and use positive discipline
techniques [44], studies of parent interventions with
parents (mothers and fathers) in methadone mainte-
nance treatment [27,28], mothers in drug court [29],
and other at-risk populations [16]. Results from this sys-
tematic review are important given the risks for poor
outcomes in children of w omen with substance abuse
issues [45]. The findings suggest that the risks to parent-
ing could be minimized with intervention, which could
have long-term impact. For example, integrated pro-
grams may improve parenting, which has been shown to
reduce the risk of child maltreatment [18]. Even though
the advantage of integrated programs over addiction
treatment-as-usual may be small, it could have a poten-
tially large impact on the associated financial and
human burden in this vulnerable population (e.g., it may
reduce the need for foster care placement, child t reat-
ment, psychiatric admissions, crime, etc.).
Limitations
There were a number of challenges encountered in
completing this systematic review that high light current
limitations in research on integrated treatment p ro-
grams. First, among the 122 studies examining outcomes
of integrated programs there were only 31 with data on
parenting outcomes, despite the fact that improving par-
enting is often a stated goal of integrated programs.
Among the studies reporting parenting outcome data,
few were comparison group studies. While not included
in the present review, 24 cohort studies assessing par-
enting outcomes were identified in the literature search.
This type of study design provides information about
parenting outcomes for women in integrated treatment
but does not provide a comparison group that enables
one to determine if these outcomes are significantly bet-
ter than those for women who participated in other
types of treatment. Despite the limited number of stu-
dies included in the syst emat ic review, we are confident
that the search was not biased. We used several
approaches to mitigate potential bias, including our
attempts to identify grey literature by searching data-
bases t hat include unpublished studies and contacting
researchers for unpublished data as well as our use of
the capture re-capture method to estimate the comple-
teness of the literature se arch (identified studies covered
90% of the search horizon, suggesting that a sufficient
number of studies were retrieved to avoid bias).
A second limitation of the present systematic review is
that study quality was not high, as is typical of the sub-
stance abuse treatment field generally [26]. Studies
included in the systematic review were of low to moder-
ate quality, although it was unclear if the scores
reflected study design per se or the reporting of study
quality elements.
A third limitation is that s tudies had small samples
and relatively few parenting outcome measures. T he
randomized trials comparing integrated programs to
addiction treatment-as-usual did not involve observa-
tional measures of parenting, which may be more objec-
tive and valid than self-report measures. Also, these
studies did not involve measures of some important
areas of materna l functioning that can be impact ed by
substance abuse, such as maternal responsiveness, se nsi-
tivity, and reflective functioning, nor did they involve
longitudinal fo llow- up on parenting or an as sessment o f
cost effectiveness.
Fourthly, missing da ta limited our review. Informatio n
on research methods and data needed to calculate effect
sizes precluded meta-analysis and hampered attempts at
assessing study quality. Of ten program, client, and study
characteri stics that might moderate treatme nt outcomes
was not available. Moderator analyses can have impor-
tant practice implications , however, specific recommen-
dations (e.g., regarding specific intervention strategies or
specific subpopulations to target such as mothers of
children in or out of foster care or mothers o f younger
or older children) await further research with better
reporting to allow meta-analysis of variables that impact
outcomes (c.f., [26]).
Recommendations for future research
More high quality studies comparing integrated pro-
grams to addiction treatment-as-usual are needed, espe-
cially studies of programs that target parent-child
interaction with mothers of young childr en examining a
variety of parenting outcomes. A multi-site study could
address statistical limitations i nherent to small samples.
The most rigorous design would be a randomized trial,
but this may be challenging in the world of real-life ser-
vice pr ovision. Further, the examination of moderators
is critical, given the variability in clients served and ser-
vices offered. Also, examination o f moderators would
help identify effective components of intervention and
ultimately examine what works best for whom under
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
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Page 9 of 11
what circumstances. As some effects may not be
immediately evident, follow-up for at least two years (or,
ideally, l onger) would be advisable. Linear regression,
generalized estimating equati ons, or linear growth curve
mod elling coul d be used to a nalyze parenting outcomes
with group and other variables as predictors (e.g., mater-
nal and child characteristics, program components), as
well as the impact of mediators and moderators over
time [46]. The propensity score method could be used
to address the potential p roblem of baseline differences
between g rou ps [47]. Evaluation of parenting outcomes
couldbeimprovedthroughtheuseofobservational
measures, w ith videotaped observations coded by
research assistants blind to group status. Ensuring the
avail ability of essential informa tion to asse ss study qual-
ity and describe studies in future reviews could be
accomplished by improvements in the editorial review
process and creation of a registry of funded studies that
would require submission of standard information (such
as the Cochrane Collaboration on health care interven-
tion), as has been recommended previously (e.g., [26]).
Conclusions
The findings from this systematic review suggest that
integrated programs for women with substance use
issues and their children may be ass ociated with positive
impacts on parenting skills and capa city. These findings
are encouraging in terms of the preventive potential for
breaking the cy cle of addiction, dysfunctional parenting,
and poor outcomes for many vulnerable children. Con-
sistent with the recommendations for research synthesis
of Cooper, Hedges, and Valentine [48], t his review
addresses an important and under-recognized, yet grow-
ing, area of research. The findings suggest the potential
promise of integrated programs and highlight research
gaps in study design, quality, and reporting practices.
Future research invo lving prospective l ongitudina l stu-
dies with comparison gro up designs, larger samples, and
full descriptions of the target population and the inter-
vention p rogram is recommended. To our knowledge,
this systematic review is the first to examine the impact
of integrated programs on parenting outcomes. Given
that approximately one third of substance abusers are
women of child-bearing age [49], substance use among
preg nant and pa renting women is a seriou s problem for
the child welfa re system and a major public health con-
cern, and the burden of suffering due to maternal sub-
stance abuse is great, the findings from this review are
noteworthy and suppo rt the need for mo re high quality
research on integrated treatment programs for women
with substance abuse issues and their children. The
effectiveness of integrated programs warrant further
exploration and investigation, as the implications of
their wide-spread implementation may include reduced
costs to taxpayers, increased access, and more positive
outcomes for mothers and children.
Abbreviations
NOS: Newcastle-Ottawa Scale;
Acknowledgements
The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) provided funding for this
project. We are grateful to research assistants, Jacky Chan, Jacqueline
Cunningham, Joyce Li, and Jennifer Liu.
Author details
1
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster
University, 280 Holbrook Building, McMaster Childrens Hospital-Chedoke
Site, Hamilton, Ontario, Box 2000 L9N 3Z5, Canada.
2
Integra, 25 Imperial
Street, Toronto, Ontario M5P 1B9, Canada.
3
School of Nursing, McMaster
University, 1200 Main Street West, Room 3N25G, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 3Z5,
Canada.
4
Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster
University, St. Josephs Healthcare, 50 Charlton Avenue., 3rd Floor, Room
H325, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 4A6, Canada.
5
Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 250 College Street,
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada.
6
Department of Psychiatry and
Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, 284 Holbrook Building,
McMaster Childrens Hospital-Chedoke Site, Hamilton, Ontario, Box 2000 L9N
3Z5, Canada.
Authors contributions
AN conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study,
interpreted the data and led preparation of the manuscript. KM conceived
of the study, participated in the design of the study, supervised the
literature search, led the development of the codebook, supervised the
coding, performed reliability coding, and drafted sections of the manuscript.
WS participated in the design of the study and the development of the
codebook and contributed to sections of the manuscript. LT participated in
the design of the study, the development of the codebook, and data
analysis, and contributed to sections of the manuscript. JH participated in
the development of the codebook and interpretation of the data. AS
conducted the literature search and coding and participated in the
development of the codebook and interpretation of the data. All authors
commented on drafts of the manuscript and approved the final edition.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Received: 29 July 2011 Accepted: 19 March 2012
Published: 19 March 2012
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doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-14
Cite this article as: Niccols et al.: Integrated programs for mothers with
substance abuse issues: A systematic review of studies reporting on
parenting outcomes. Harm Reduction Journal 2012 9:14.
Niccols et al. Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:14
http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/9/1/14
Page 11 of 11
... Within this, research has found that well-integrated treatment approaches, which comprehensively address the individualised factors that lead to substance use and child abuse, were key in improving maternal and child outcomes (Marsh & Cao, 2005). For instance, the use of multidisciplinary integrated treatment programmes, which include substance use treatment with interventions for maternal well-being (e.g., medical and nutrition-, mental health-, psychological-, parenting services; education and employment assistance), as well as other services (e.g., case management-, child-related services) (Marsh et al., 2011), revealed better parenting behaviours, such as improved parent-child interaction and lower child abuse risk, higher substance use treatment retention and reduction of maternal substance use, when compared with those who attended non-integrated treatment programmes or substance use treatment-as-usual (Milligan et al., 2010(Milligan et al., , 2011Moreland & McRae-Clark, 2018;Niccols et al., 2012a). A systematic review by Niccols et al. (2012b) also showed positive association between integrated treatment programmes for mothers with substance use problems and the improvements in their child development, physical growth (e.g., length, weight, and head circumference), emotional and behavioural functioning. ...
... Even though research on integrated treatment programmes has shown promising findings, a majority of the studies focused on clinical outcomes, such as patterns of substance use, parenting behaviours or child behaviours (Dutra et al., 2008;Messina et al., 2015;Niccols et al., 2012aNiccols et al., , 2012b). There appears to be a lack of emphasis on the practical outcomes of such interventions, for instance, the mitigation of the mothers' involvement in childcare proceedings (Canfield et al., 2017). ...
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... Studies have suggested that up to 70 percent of women entering substance abuse treatment programs were parents of children under the age of 18 (Greenfield 2002;Rubenstein and Stover 2016). While recovery efforts are encouraging, it has been found that mothers recovering from substance abuse experience unique risk factors including enhanced vulnerability to physiological consequences, increased prevalence of mental health problems, poor nutrition, increased rates of relationship problems, and lower reports of social support (Greenfield 2002;Hernandez-Avila et al. 2004;Niccols et al. 2012). Moreover, addiction treatment and recovery do not erase the long-term effects that substance-induced behavior, domestic violence, poverty, and poor parenting can have on children (Murphy and Ting 2010). ...
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... The significance of these consequences has fueled research examining the intersectionality of substance use and parenting (Niccols et al., 2012;Moreland and McRae-Clark, 2018). Parental involvement is hypothesized to be the primary route through which addiction impacts parenting and subsequent parent and child wellbeing . ...
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The results of this meta-analytic study showed PET to have an overall effect size of 0.33 standard deviation units, which was significantly greater than the effect size of a group representing alternative treatments. PET has effects on parents' knowledge, attitudes, and behavior and on children's self-esteem, and these effects endured (up to 26 weeks) after the programs were completed. There was a trend suggesting that the effect on child behavior may have a latency period. Better designed studies were found to have significantly greater effect sizes (.45) than less well-designed studies (.26).
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Although providing child care and family residency options has become central to substance abuse treatment for women with dependent children, research documenting status of child coresidence prior to, during, and following treatment is currently unavailable. The purpose of this study is to examine the degree to which mothers are successful in maintaining or reestablishing their role as parents during the course of treatment. The sample included 152 female clients admitted to a residential drug treatment program for women with dependent children. Findings document an increase in child coresidency from admission to follow-up. Women who entered treatment with all children or who were reunited with children previously in others' care at admission were over five times more likely to coreside with all children at follow-up. At follow-up, mothers who reported complete coresidence were more likely to be 30 years old or younger, live independently, and have fewer than two parenting challenges.