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.
Using anonymised data from Victorian CPS, repeat cases involving 29,455 children identified between 2001 and 2005 were examed.
Carer alcohol abuse, other drug abuse, mental ill-health, carer experience of abuse as a child, child age and gender, family type,ocio-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.
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.
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