Methods: This study analyzed data from a sample of 2,251 mothers and their children from the 5-year follow-up survey of the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study. At the initial survey (1998-2000) the Fragile Families study over-sampled unwed mothers who recently gave birth in 20 large U. S. cities. Five-year-old children's aggressive behavior was measured by summing scores from a 19-item subscale of the Child Behavior Checklist. Mothers' violence exposure was measured with their witnessing and/or experiencing eight types of community violence (e.g., beating, shooting), which were categorized into no, moderate, and high exposure. Two subscales, psychological aggression and physical assault, which were derived from the Parent-Child Conflict Tactic survey, measured Mothers' parenting practices. Each subscale was summed and categorized into low, moderate, and high level of intensity. A number of socio-demographic variables also were entered into the models. Following Baron and Kenny's (1986) criteria for establishing mediation, four multivariate regression models were estimated. For the continuous dependent variable, child aggressive behavior, OLS regression was used. For the categorical dependent variables, parenting practices, ordinal logistic regression was used.
Results: Mothers' moderate and high community violence exposure, compared with no exposure, were statistically significantly related to children's aggressive behavior, as well as to the two parenting practices, psychological aggression and physical assault. Both moderate and high levels of the two parenting practices, compared with low levels, were significantly related to children's aggressive behavior. Finally, including the two parenting practices into the first model reduced the two coefficients of mothers' community violence exposure by approximately 33%. These results indicate that the two parenting practices partially mediate the effects of mothers' violence exposure on young children's aggression.
Implications: The findings extend existing knowledge on the influence of community violence on families by identifying parenting practices as partial mediators of the effects of mothers' violence exposure on children's aggression. Future research is required to identify other mediators of this relationship. The results suggest that practitioners treating children exhibiting aggression need to assess mothers' exposure to community violence and their aggressive psychological and physical parenting practices. When indicated, practitioners can teach mothers more positive parenting practices and assist families in relocating to safer neighborhoods (e.g., accessing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers). The results also urge social policies that reduce community violence.