Pilot Study of Behavioral and Emotional Disturbances in the High-Risk Children of Parents with Opioid Dependence

Timothy E. Wilens, Joseph Biederman, Kathleen Kiely, Elizabeth Bredin, Thomas J. Spencer

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79 Scopus citations


Despite the prevalence of nonalcohol substance abuse disorders, few data are available on the high-risk children of parents with these disorders. To this end as a preliminary study, children of opioid-dependent parents were assessed on measures of emotional and behavioral problems. Child Behavior Checklist data from 15 girls and 29 boys (mean age 10.4 years) from 27 families of parents receiving treatment in a methadone maintenance clinic were compared with matched data from referred children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder plus comorbid psychiatric disorders (“comorbid ADHD children”) and medically referred children without ADHD (“controls”). The children of opioid-dependent parents had significantly poorer competency scores, and higher scores on both Internalizing and Externalizing subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist, compared with controls (p values < .01), but not compared with comorbid ADHD children. Twenty-four children (55%) of opioid-dependent parents had elevated subscale scores indicative of significant psychopathology. These pilot data seem to indicate that the 4-to 18-year-old children of parents with opioid dependence have high rates of psychopathology and significant dysfunction and suggest the need for further controlled studies in this population. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1995, 34, 6:779–785.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-785
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • psychopathology
  • risk factors
  • substance abuse


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