Detection of maternal alcohol use problems in the pediatric emergency department

Heather A. Flynn*, Sarah A. Cain, Heather A. O'Mahen, Matthew M. Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Maternal alcohol use problems may impact the health and well-being of children, but often remain unrecognized. Mothers of young children seldom seek outpatient care for themselves; thus, pediatric settings may present an opportunity for the detection of maternal alcohol use problems. This study examines the feasibility of screening for and prevalence of alcohol use problems in mothers of young children in the context of seeking pediatric emergency care. We also examined the relationship of maternal alcohol use problems with use of pediatric emergency care. Methods: A total of 361 English-speaking mothers of children aged 7 and younger completed screening measures during their child's emergency care visit. TWEAK was used to screen for alcohol use problems. The screening survey also included information on children's health status and health care use, demographics, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Results: Of the women approached, 90% agreed to complete the screening measure. On the basis of cutoff score of 2 or more, 7% of women had elevated TWEAK scores. Those women with a TWEAK score >2 reported greater use of the pediatric emergency department (PED) than women scoring below the cutoff. On the basis of multivariate analyses, significant predictors of recent PED use included the presence of child chronic illness, younger maternal age, and TWEAK score. Conclusions: Screening for alcohol use problems among mothers of young children using the TWEAK appears to be feasible in a busy PED setting. The PED setting is promising for identifying risk drinking among women who may be less likely to be otherwise detected and for whom alcohol use may be impacting child outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1160-1164
Number of pages5
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Emergency Department
  • Maternal Drinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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