Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16002 The Effect of Mothers' Community Involvement On Maltreatment Behaviors

Friday, January 13, 2012: 8:00 AM
Constitution C (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Bomi Kim, MA, PhD student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Kathryn Maguire-Jack, MSW, MPA, PhD Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose: Despite a growing literature on the prevention of child abuse and neglect, child maltreatment remains a significant problem in the United States. In 2009 there were nearly 2.6 million reports of maltreatment and nearly 700,000 children were labeled victim of abuse and neglect. To date, the child maltreatment literature has focused much attention on the risk factors for abuse and neglect at every level of the social ecology. Less attention has been focused on protective factors that prevent maltreatment from occurring, particularly those factors that relate to the larger community contexts of families. Relying on social capital theory, we specifically study whether a mother's participation in her community is associated with decreased scores on the psychological aggression, physical assault, and neglect subscales of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS). We hypothesize that mother's who are more active within their communities will have lower scores on these three subscales.

Methods: To determine whether mother's community participation is associated with her scores on the CTS, we estimate a series of ordinary least squares and logistic regressions that focus on associations between mother's community participation and her CTS scores when the child is age 5. As a proxy for community participation, we use survey information on the mother's attendance at parenting groups, information sessions, or social or religious groups within her community; as well as a question asking whether she knows the families who live in her neighborhood well. We control for household income, mother's marital status, parenting stress, the number of children, whether the mother has a drug or alcohol problem, and her level of education. The data are drawn from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of nearly 5,000 families in 20 urban U.S. cities.

Results: We find that, net of controls, mothers who are more involved in their communities have lower scores on both the psychological aggression and neglect subscales of the CTS, but do not find a significant association with physical assault (although the coefficient was in the expected direction). A number of sensitivity tests were conducted to address the potential role of selection bias. Taken together, these findings suggest that mothers who are more involved in their communities are less likely to exhibit maltreating behaviors.

Conclusions and Implications: This study suggests that mothers who are more involved in their communities are less likely to engage in maltreating behaviors, providing support for social capital theory. These findings suggest that programs that encourage parental involvement within the community may be a useful strategy for preventing maltreatment. Future studies should examine the specific pathways through which community involvement is related to maltreatment, including whether the associations seen here can be attributed to concrete or emotional support from these resources.

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