Externalizing behaviors among children of HIV seropositive former and current drug users: Parent support network factors as social ecological risks

Amy Knowlton, Amy Buchanan, Lawrence Wissow, Daniel J. Pilowsky, Carl Latkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Children affected by their parents' dual drug use and HIV/AIDS face considerable challenges to their psychosocial development, including parent dysfunction and foster care placement. While HIV/AIDS may increase parents' mobilization of social support, their drug use may restrict who is available to help them, with potential implications to the adjustment of their children with whom they remain in contact. This study sought to identify dually affected children's living situations, and parent and parent's support network factors as correlates of children's externalizing problem behaviors. An urban community sample of 462 HIV seropositive, current or former drug-using parents were queried about their children aged 5-15 years old. One hundred ninety-four children were reported by 119 parents. The outcome was children's externalizing behaviors of ever having been suspended or expelled from school, criminal-justice system involvement, or illicit drug or heavy alcohol use. Independent variables included kin and drug users in parent's support network. Generalized estimating equations were used to adjust for the potential correlation of children of the same parent. Among parents, 63% were mothers, 57% current opioid or cocaine users, 85% were African American, 35% had AIDS or CD <200, and 53% had high depressive symptoms (CES-D≥16); median age was 38. Among children, median age was 12; 23% lived with the nominating parent, 65% with other family, and 11% in non-kin foster care. While only 34% of parents reported child custody, 43% reported daily contact with their child, and 90% reported high emotional closeness. Parents reported externalizing behaviors among 32% of the children. Logistic regression indicated that externalizing behavior was positively associated with parent's physical limitations and proportion of illicit drug users in parent's support network. A significant interaction was found indicating that the effect of parent's support network-level drug use was greater for children living with versus not living with the parent. The model adjusted for parent's current drug use and depressive symptoms, which were not significant. Results indicate that while only a minority of these dually affected children lived with the parent, the parents' physical limitations and embeddedness in drug using support networks, particularly if living with their children, was associated with the children's maladjustment. It is plausible that these factors interfere with parenting, expose the children to conflict or adverse social influences, or obligate children to assume caregiving for their parent. While dually affected children's contact with their parents may have important benefits, results suggest it presents ongoing needs for intervention with the children, their parents, and caregivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-76
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Volume85
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2008

Keywords

  • Child psychosocial functioning
  • Externalizing behaviors
  • Foster care
  • HIV/AIDS affected children
  • Informal caregiving
  • Parental illicit drug use
  • Social support networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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