Polydrug-using adolescent mothers and their infants receiving early intervention

Tiffany M. Field, Frank Scafidi, Jeffrey Pickens, Margarita Prodromidis, Martha Pelaez-Nogueras, Julia Torquati, Holly Wilcox, Julie Malphurs, Saul Schanberg, Cynthia Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effects of an intervention for polydrug-using adolescent mothers. The program included educational, vocational, and parenting classes; social and drug rehab; and day care for their infants while they attended school half-day. The drug-exposed infants were similar to the non-exposed infants on traditional birth measures, although they had inferior Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale scores, including habituation, orientation, abnormal reflexes, general irritability, and regulatory capacity. The drug-exposed infants also spent less time in quiet sleep and more time crying and showing stress behaviors. Both the mothers and the infants in the drug groups demonstrated inferior interactions, and their dopamine and serotonin levels were significantly higher. As early as 3 months (following 3 months of intervention), the drug rehab mothers and their infants looked more like the nondrug group in their interactions; by 6 months, they looked similar on virtually every measure. At 12 months, the infants of drug rehab mothers (versus the drug control group) had superior Early Social Communication Scale scores and Bayley Mental scale scores, as well as significantly greater head circumference and fewer pediatric complications. The drug rehab mothers also improved on several lifestyle variables. They demonstrated a lower incidence of continued drug use and repeat pregnancy, and a greater number continued school, received a high school or general equivalency diploma, or were placed in a job. Thus, a relatively cost-effective high school based intervention had positive effects on both adolescent mothers who had used drugs and their infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-143
Number of pages27
Issue number129
StatePublished - Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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