Improving antenatal risk assessment in women exposed to high risks

Natasha Perry, Louise K. Newman, Mick Hunter, Adrian Dunlop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Antenatal substance use and related psychosocial risk factors are known to increase the likelihood of child protection involvement; less is known about the predictive nature of maternal reflective functioning (RF) in this population. This preliminary study assessed psychosocial and psychological risk factors for a group of substance dependent women exposed to high risks in pregnancy, and their impact on child protection involvement. Pregnant women on opiate substitution treatment (n = 11) and a comparison group (n = 15) were recruited during their third trimester to complete measures of RF (Pregnancy Interview), childhood trauma, mental health and psychosocial assessments. At postnatal follow-up, RF was reassessed (Parent Development Interview - Revised Short Version) and mother-infant dyads were videotaped to assess emotional availability (EA). Child protection services were contacted to determine if any concerns had been raised for infant safety. Significant between-group differences were observed for demographics, psychosocial factors, trauma and mental health symptoms. Unexpectedly, no significant differences were found for RF or EA between groups. Eight women in the 'exposed to high risks' group became involved with child protection services. Reflective functioning was not significantly associated with psychosocial risk factors, and therefore did not mediate the outcome of child protection involvement. Women 'exposed to high risks' were equally able to generate a model of their own and their infants' mental states and should not be seen within a deficit perspective. Further research is required to better understand the range of risk factors that predict child protection involvement in high risk groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-105
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • child protection
  • high-risk parenting
  • Reflective functioning
  • risk assessment
  • substance abuse

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