Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Saturday, January 13, 2007: 2:00 PM-3:45 PM
Marina Room (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
Fathers and Risk for Physical Child Abuse and Neglect: Findings from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study
Organizer:Neil B. Guterman, PhD, University of Chicago
Discussant:Neil B. Guterman, PhD, University of Chicago
Fathers and Maternal Risk for Physical Child Abuse and Neglect
Yookyong Lee, MSW, Neil B. Guterman, PhD, Jane Waldfogel, PhD, Shawna Lee, PhD
Risk and Resilience Factors Related to Paternal Physical Child Abuse
Shawna Lee, PhD, Neil B. Guterman, PhD, Yookyong Lee, MSW
Intimate Partner Violence and Risk for Maternal Child Abuse and Neglect: Findings from a Population-Based Longitudinal Cohort Study
Cathy Taylor, PhD, Neil B. Guterman, PhD
Abstract Text:
Purpose: The development of effective preventive strategies requires sound empirical information about the etiology of physical child abuse and neglect (CAN). Although the knowledge base has advanced significantly, one critical domain that is sorely underdeveloped concerns the role of fathers. This is especially important given the growing recognition that fathers and father surrogates are disproportionately represented as perpetrators in the most severe cases of CAN. Although prior research has indirectly suggested that fathers play an important role in the risk that families face for CAN (for example, by identifying risk factors such as single motherhood, mothers' problematic relationships with significant others, or the economic consequences associated with father-absence), studies to date provide little specificity regarding the precise influence fathers have in shaping risk for CAN. This symposium seeks to address this gap.

Methods: The proposed symposium presents a series of related studies that examine different ways that fathers shape risk for CAN, drawing from a national longitudinal population-based study, the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS). The design of the FFCWS is uniquely well positioned to investigate fathers' roles in CAN risk among young children for several reasons. The FFCWS is a national population-based sample of families in 20-cities, as opposed to a problem-based sample; it utilizes self-report data from both mothers and fathers, as well as from in-home observations of the mother-child relationship; and the data provide the ability to distinguish between biological fathers and other non-related caregivers.

Results: Building on the developmental-ecological model each paper examines a comprehensive set of mother- and father- variables related to risk for CAN. Furthermore, we significantly expand the current research base by focusing on qualities of the parental relationship that heighten or minimize risk for CAN. The first paper (Lee, Guterman, Waldfogel, & Lee) uses regression analyses that control for maternal and other background factors to identify unique fathering predictors that are linked to mothers' physical child abuse and neglect risk. The second paper (Lee, Guterman, & Lee) uses regression analyses to examine the characteristics of both mothers and fathers that are related to heightened risk for father-perpetrated physical child abuse. The third paper (Taylor & Guterman) presents results regarding the association between mothers' reports of experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), including both physical and psychological aggression, and self-reports of maternal CAN.

Implications: Given that so little is known about the role of fathers with regard to protective and risk factors related to CAN, identifying the fathering factors that influence child outcomes has significant implications for interventions to strengthen families. Research exploring the characteristics of fathers that are related to mother- and father- perpetrated abuse and how the qualities of the parental relationship that increase or mitigate risk for CAN will permit the development of sound intervention and policy strategies that target specific modifiable father-related pathways linked with maltreatment risk, thereby promoting a trajectory of healthful parent-child interactions away from physical child abuse and neglect.

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