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Victimization and Perpetration Among Perinatal Substance Abusers

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 760-780
Deborah L. Haller; Donna R. Miles
Date Published
July 2003
21 pages
This study examined associations between demographic, psychiatric, substance abuse, child abuse variables, and past 30-day victimization and perpetration among perinatal substance abusers.
The results indicate that the majority of women who participated in the study experienced childhood abuse. Although high rates of childhood abuse were anticipated, prevalence of current abuse was higher than expected. For example, four times as many perinatal substance abusers reported physical abuse compared to other obstetrical patients. This is striking considering the 30-day assessment window. Rates of physical and sexual abuse occurring during the perinatal period were essentially the same as those for non-pregnant women, suggesting that pregnancy is non-protective of victimization for this population. Drug abusing women are rarely characterized as perpetrators. When they are, this is generally in relation to concerns about child abuse. Although this study anticipated high rates of perpetration of emotional abuse in the current sample, the self-reported incidents of physical perpetration was greater than expected. Anger management training and instruction in parenting with respect to child disciplinary techniques may be necessary components of programs treating this population. None of the childhood abuse variables significantly predicted perpetration. Although the rates for most sexual perpetration and violation of others' personal freedom were low, rates for both emotional and physical perpetration were substantial. These results suggest that for this population, current perpetration is not directly linked to history of child abuse. Although a common concern is that victims of child abuse will themselves become victimizers, the results from this study suggest that the pathway to becoming an abuser is far more complex. Participants were 77 women admitted to the Center for Perinatal Addiction program, a Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration-funded residential treatment program for pregnant and postpartum substance abusers and their neonates and other preschool-age children. Tables, references