Substance use and separation of homeless mothers from their children

Cheryl Zlotnick, Marjorie J. Robertson, Tammy Tam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study examined whether homeless mothers with substance use problems were more likely to experience separations from their children and whether recent substance use had an impact on the family's ability to receive public entitlement income consistently over the 15-month study period. Methods: This study used an existing longitudinal data set consisting of a county-wide probability sample of 104 homeless women who had children under 18 years old. Results: Only 29.1% of women had all their children with them throughout the 15-month study period. Mothers who had been separated from their children were more likely to have a current substance use disorder and to have been homeless for at least a year compared to other homeless mothers. Conclusions: Because many women with recent substance use had already had lost custody of their children, substance use contributed to loss of child custody among mothers who did not have substance use disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1383
Number of pages11
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA12019) and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH51651 and MH46104).


  • Family
  • Homelessness
  • Substance use
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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