Maladaptive Parenting, Activity Spaces, and the Substance Use Environment

  • Project status: In progress
  • Funded by: NIAAA P60-AA-006282 

Current research suggests that a relationship exists between alcohol use and child maltreatment.   To date, however, a dearth of information exists on how much of maltreatment occurs when a parent has been drinking or how local alcohol environments, including how where a parent spends their time exposes him or her to various drinking locations and contexts. In this application we build upon and extend that work in three important ways (1) The proposed study assesses maladaptive parenting and related alcohol use during discipline events, allowing us to make statements about the incidence of alcohol-related harsh and neglectful parenting practices; (2) This prospective study uses individuals own activity spaces to understand how drinking locations and contexts may affect these relationships over time and (3) building upon our findings related to drinking locations, this study will explicitly examine parents’ use of their local alcohol environments, including how social relationships may exacerbate or hinder drinking behaviors that are related to maladaptive parenting. Sixty semi-structured ethnographic interviews will allow us to assess and determine the range of parent activity and related drinking spaces, drinking contexts, and social supports to enable to development of survey questions on these topics. Two waves (Years 2 and 4) of multi-modal (telephone and web) survey data collection with 2,100 parents of children (birth to 10 years) sampled throughout 30 communities across the state of California will provide information about maladaptive parenting, alcohol use, activity spaces, and drinking locations and contexts that will address the following specific aims:

(1) Investigate whether or not parents are more likely to use abusive or neglectful parenting techniques immediately before, during and after parenting discipline events compared to when no drinking has occurred;

(2) Determine if the size and use of activity spaces by parents moderates the relationship between density of alcohol outlets, use of drinking venues and maladaptive parenting; and how changes in activity spaces affect use of outlets and drinking venues controlling for other known correlates of maladaptive parenting; and

(3) Examine how characteristics of social support networks (location to parent, drinking behavior, frequency of contact) moderate drinking behaviors and exposure to alcohol environments to affect maladaptive parenting.


Freisthler, B. & Holmes, M.R. (2012). Explicating the social mechanisms linking the ecology of alcohol use behaviors to child maltreatment. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 39, 25-48.

Freisthler, B. & Gruenewald, P.J. (2013). Where the individual meets the ecological: A study of parent drinking patterns, alcohol outlets and child physical abuse. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 27(6), 993-1000.

Freisthler, B. (2013). Need for and access to supportive services in the Child Welfare System. GeoJournal, 78(3), 429-441.

Johnson-Motoyama, M. (2013).  Does a paradox exist in child well-being risks among foreign-born Latinos, U.S.-born Latinos, and whites? Findings from 50 California cities. Child Abuse & Neglect. 

Freisthler, B., Holmes, M.R., & Price Wolf, J. (2014).The dark side of social support: Understanding the role of social support, drinking behaviors and alcohol outlets for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect,

Freisthler, B., Lipperman-Kreda, S., Bersamin, M., & Gruenewald, P.J.  Integrating ecological momentary assessment and geospatial data to examine risk for alcohol-related problems. Accepted for publication April 2014, Alcohol Research: Current Reviews.

Kepple, N.J., Freisthler, B., Johnson-Motoyama, M. (2014). Bias in child maltreatment self-reports using Interactive Voice Response. Child Abuse & Neglect, doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.04.001

Price Wolf, J. Parent gender as a moderator: The relationships between social support, collective efficacy, and child physical abuse in a community sample. Child MaltreatmentFirst published on December 17, 2014  doi:10.1177/1077559514562606

Freisthler, B., Price Wolf, J., Johnson-Motoyama, M. Understanding the role of context-specific drinking in neglectful parenting behaviors. Accepted for publication, March 2015, Alcohol and Alcoholism. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agv031