Gender Issues in California's Perinatal Substance Abuse Policy

By Noble, Amanda; Klein, Dorie et al. | Contemporary Drug Problems, April 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Gender Issues in California's Perinatal Substance Abuse Policy


Noble, Amanda, Klein, Dorie, Zahnd, Elaine, Holtby, Sue, Contemporary Drug Problems


This paper examines gender issues that arose when California created and passed a law related to substance-exposed infants in 1990. The law, explained in some detail below, intended to clarify whether prenatal alcohol and drug use was a reportable form of child abuse. Putting maternal substance use in context, it is important to note that there is a long historical tradition of a double standard that condemns women for drinking publicly or drinking to excess even on occasion, as men are generally permitted to do (Ettore, 1992; Morgan, 1987; Sandmeier, 1980). There is a similarly strong prohibition against female drug use, which contrasts with a certain tolerance for youthful male experimentation. It should be recalled that in the early years of cigarettes, smoking by women was frowned upon. Public (e.g., barroom) or heavy drinking by women has long been associated in traditional cultural discourse with female immorality. This gender-specific immorality, and hence the condemnation of heavy female drinking per se, typically revolves around sexual misconduct. These stereotypes are exemplified by the focus on "promiscuity" in early research on alcoholic women (Ridlon, 1988) and in research focusing on drug use and sexuality (Inciardi et al., 1993).

Hence heavy or public drinking or drug use has been severely stigmatizing for women and has been indirectly but indelibly associated with maternal unfitness. Women's maternal role, in fact, has long been central to research on women's drinking and drug-taking (Fillmore, 1984; Gomberg, 1979; Rosenbaum, 1981). Likewise there is a history of public concern with the health of pregnant women as it might affect their offspring, dating back to the decision to uphold protective labor legislation in Muller v Oregon in 1907 (Paltrow, 1990). This linkage can occur even in the absence of evidence of any direct impact of a woman's drinking or drug-taking on her actual performance of parental responsibilities such as nurturing, housekeeping, economic support, discipline, and so forth. Thus it is often difficult to disentangle concerns with actual maternal irresponsibility from moral judgments about a mother's visibly drinking or taking drugs at all.

Background: pressures to respond

In the mid to late 1980s, perinatal substance use in the U.S. came to be defined as a major concern in association with several perceived trends and shaped by diverse interests groups: scientific research on the health consequences of prenatal maternal substance use for the fetus; social welfare concerns for the psychosocial impact of maternal substance abuse on the child; and public institutions that were experiencing the fiscal and organizational effects of a growth in perinatal substance use. Media publicity generated political pressure to act, and interventions were developed to reach pregnant women and delivering mothers. Consequently substance-- exposed infants became the subject of countless legislative hearings and speeches, as well as of new laws and policies. Law and policy formulation was complicated by the linkage of this social problem to other complex social and political issues such as the war on drugs in relation to crack cocaine, heightened attention to child abuse in general, and the abortion debate and its significance to the reproductive rights of women (Larson, 1991 ).

Consequences of prenatal maternal substance use for the fetus

Concern over the possible physiological and developmental effects on infants of prenatal maternal substance use was first sparked by clinical research that identified fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) (Jones and Smith, 1973). For a limited number of newborns, apparently mostly limited to those born to chronic heavy drinkers, FAS is shown to consist of severe irreversible, lifelong effects. Large prospective studies have found statistical associations between low to moderate levels of prenatal alcohol exposure and outcomes on a variety of educational, behavioral and psychological tests (Institute of Medicine, 1996). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Gender Issues in California's Perinatal Substance Abuse Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.