The residential status of children whose parents are in treatment for methamphetamine use



Publication Details

Robinson, L. D., Kelly, P. J., Deane, F. P. & Townsend, M. L. (2019). The residential status of children whose parents are in treatment for methamphetamine use. Drug and Alcohol Review, 38 (4), 359-365.


Introduction and Aims

Methamphetamine (MA) use has increased markedly over the past decade, during which time there has been an increase in children in out of home care. This study explores whether MA use in parents attending residential treatment services for substance use issues is associated with higher proportions of children living out of the home.

Design and Methods

Data were collected from individuals attending residential treatment centres provided by the Australian Salvation Army between 2009 and 2016. Centres provide residential alcohol and other substance use treatment in a modified therapeutic community. Trained staff administered sections of the Addiction Severity Index measuring substance use, legal and parenting status, and the Mental Health Screening Form‐III at intake. Data were limited to those who had at least one child under 18 years; final sample size was 2964.


Of the 2964 parents, 36.3% nominated MAs use as a primary or secondary substance of use. Between 2011 and 2016, a significantly greater proportion of parents using MAs (86.1%), had at least one child not living at home compared to those using other substances (81.3%; χ2=7.95, P = 0.005). The proportion of female parents increased significantly 14.7% (2009) to 37.9% (2016; χ2 = 51.54, P < 0.001). Also, more males (83.7%) than females (79.6%) had a child living out of home (χ2 = 11.23, P = 0.01).

Discussion and Conclusions

Given that MA use can result in increased risks of violence and neglect the increase in parents using the substance is concerning. The growing number of mothers in treatment warrants further investigation, particularly as women face inherent difficulties in seeking treatment with dependent children.

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