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Aims: This paper examined whether: a) caregiver ‘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 play 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 and participants: Using anonymised data from Victorian CPS, repeat cases involving 29,455 children identified between 2001 and 2005 were examined. 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 five-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<.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.
© 2012 The Authors, Addiction © 2012 Society for the Study of Addiction.