Mothers who abuse substances are likely to have insecure emotional attachment with their children, placing their children at risk for social–emotional and psychiatric conditions. Sobriety does not inevitably improve parenting.
We tested recruitment methods, audiovisual (AV) recording procedures, the protocol for identifying child abuse risk, the coding of mother–child interactions, and retention of the sample for repeated measures as the first phase in examining mother–child relational quality of women in substance abuse treatment.
This innovative study involved AV recordings to capture the in-vivo mother–child interactional behaviors that were later coded and analyzed for mean scores on the 64-item Parent–Child Relational Quality Assessment. Repeated measurement was planned during treatment and two months after discharge from treatment.
The pilot involved a small sample (n = 11) of mother–child (<6 years) dyads. Highest and lowest ratings of interaction behaviors were identified. Mothers showed less enthusiasm and creativity but matched their child’s emotional state. The children showed appropriate motor skill items and attachment behaviors. The dyad coding showed less mutual enjoyment between the mother and child. Eight of the participants could not be located for the second measurement despite multiple contact methods.
AV recordings capture rich, descriptive information that can be coded for interactional quality analysis. Repeated measurement with this cohort was not feasible, thus needing to assess for additional/more frequent contacts to maintain the sample.