Measuring alcohol-related parenting problems in mothers

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


Dr Sally Marlow

Postgraduate Student

Sally Marlow recently submitted a PhD, Maternal Alcohol Misuse in England:  Identification, Prevalence, Nature and Impact, at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, for which she received studentships from SSA and ARUK.

Measuring alcohol-related parenting problems in mothers


Children with parents who misuse alcohol have impaired outcomes in areas such as social and emotional development and mental health; and higher rates of alcohol and substance misuse.  However little is known about specific parenting behaviours which might contribute to those outcomes, or about how maternal alcohol misuse might impact those parenting behaviours.


To develop the Maternal Alcohol and Parenting Problems Index (the MAPPI), a questionnaire to measure alcohol-related parenting problems in mothers, and to test it in a general population sample.


A key literature source was selected, providing a theoretical framework onto which content analysis from two sources was mapped;  expert witness assessments of mothers appearing in child care proceedings in the Family Courts; and interviews with alcohol misuse and parenting experts.  Findings were synthesised with further findings from the literature, and domains of parenting behaviours and specific items within these were identified and selected to create an initial version of the MAPPI.
The initial version of the MAPPI was tested in an online sample of mothers, and redundant items were removed to create a final version.


All data combined to produce a 38 item questionnaire, with items falling into 9 domains.
Testing on 328 mothers revealed good face validity. Principal components analysis revealed a distinct alcohol-related-parenting problems factor; and suggested a reduction to 24 items, falling into seven theoretical domains.   This reduced item version had good convergent and discriminant validity, and high internal reliability.


The MAPPI is a novel development derived from a variety of sources and covering a breadth of alcohol-related parenting problems, and initial testing is promising.  In order to develop it further, the 24 item version will be tested in clinical and general population samples, with the aim of validating a tool with utility in clinical, social work and/or legal practice.


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