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Alcohol's involvement in recurrent child abuse and neglect cases

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Aims  This paper examined whether or not: (a) care‐giver ‘alcohol abuse’ is associated with recurrent child maltreatment; (b) other ‘risk factors’ affect this relationship; and (c) which of alcohol abuse or other drug abuse plays a stronger role. It also examined (d) how children and families where alcohol‐related child abuse was identified were managed by child protection services (CPS) in Victoria, Australia.

Design, setting and participants  Using anonymized data from Victorian CPS, repeat cases were examined involving 29 455 children identified between 2001 and 2005.

Measurements  Carer alcohol abuse, other drug abuse, mental ill‐health, carer experience of abuse as a child, child age and gender, family type, socio‐economic variables and level of child protection service intervention as recorded in the CPS electronic database were examined as risk factors for recurrence, using bivariate and multivariate techniques.

Findings  Almost one‐quarter of children in CPS experienced a recurrent incident of child maltreatment in a 5‐year period. Where carer alcohol abuse was identified children were significantly more likely to experience multiple incidents compared with children where this was not identified (P < 0.001), as were children where other family risk factors (including markers of socio‐economic disadvantage) were identified. The majority of children whose carers were identified with alcohol abuse experienced either repeat incidents or interventions (84%), although almost three‐quarters of these children were managed without resort to the most serious outcome, involving court orders.

Conclusions  Alcohol and drug abuse in carers are important risk‐factors for recurrent child maltreatment after accounting for other known risk factors; the increased risk appears to be similar between alcohol and drug abuse.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Population Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: October 1, 2012


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