Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Karen A. Polonko

Committee Member

Scott R. Maggard

Committee Member

Xiushi Yang

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 A33 2011


Prenatal smoking and drinking are very serious problems that have continued to plague society. They have multiple negative effects on the child both physically and cognitively. This study explored the relationship between prenatal abuse, i.e., prenatal smoking and prenatal drinking, and subsequent child physical abuse and official reports of child maltreatment. It was hypothesized that mothers who smoked or drank prenatally would be more likely to physically abuse their child postnatally and have official reports of child maltreatment. The sample included women participating in Wave III of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health. N = 620 women who answered the questions regarding child physical abuse and CPS involvement. They ranged in age from 18 to 27 years old with a mean age of 22. 52 percent were white, 30 percent black, and 18 percent other.

Bivariate and multivariate analyses indicated that while prenatal drinking was not related, prenatal smoking was significantly related to both measures of postnatal child maltreatment i.e., mother's reported frequency of hitting, kicking, and slapping (child physical abuse) and official reports of child maltreatment. Effects of prenatal smoking were both direct and indirect though child physical abuse. Child physical abuse was also found to be significantly related to Child Protective Services reports, indicating the escalation in severity of abuse.

Both prenatal smoking and drinking have been found to have deleterious health and cognitive effects and must be addressed. The finding that prenatal smoking was significantly related to both child physical abuse and official reports of child maltreatment suggests that it is of utmost importance to address this problem. Child physical abuse must also be addressed as it can escalate into severe abuse and death.


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