Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Elliot Jurist

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Addictions; CBCL; Child psychopathology; Ethnic minorities; Substance Use Disorders; Temperament


Background: Substance abuse is a significant issue that affects the lives of adults and children in our society. Children of substance abusing parents are at greater risk for poor psychosocial adjustment and psychopathology. The present study drew on biopsychosocial and epigenetic approaches to study vulnerability and resilience in children. The aim was to advance the understanding of child psychopathology and of intergenerational effects of maternal substance use disorder (SUD) by examining the independent and combined contributions of risk factors for child psychopathology in children of mothers with SUD. Employing a "goodness of fit model," which posits that adverse child outcomes emerge as a consequence of a mismatch between endogenous child characteristics and their caregiving environment, it was hypothesized that difficult temperament and maternal SUD would represent a mismatch that would influence the presence of child behavioral problems. Method: The present study examined the relationship between maternal SUD, child psychopathology, and difficult temperament in a predominantly poor, ethnic minority sample of 147 mother and child dyads. To generate empirically sound data on substance use disorders, we used the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R/DSM-IV (SCID'SAC) to create study subgroups based on maternal diagnosis. This study compared Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) scores of the children with maternal SUD histories to clinical and nonclinical comparison groups. Results: Findings did not replicate prior studies reporting an association between maternal SUD and child psychopathology in this sample of ethnic minority predominantly poor sample of mothers and their children. Maternal depression emerged as a predictor of child offspring internalizing symptomatology and child difficult temperament independently predicted both internalizing and externalizing child behavioral problems. No interaction was revealed between difficult temperament and maternal diagnosis. Conclusions: This study's findings indicate that maternal depression is a uniquely influential intergenerational diagnostic risk factor for internalizing symptoms in children, and child difficult temperament is an individual characteristic that helps predict elevated internalizing and externalizing child symptomatology in this population. The results of this study have implications for clinical interventions, research design, and prevention policies. The findings support biopsychosocial models of psychopathology and demonstrate the need for attending to methodological issues when studying intergenerational ramifications of substance use disorders.