Methods: Data from the longitudinal Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW) were utilized for this study (n=3,047). Child behavioral outcomes were measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL): (1) aggression; (2) withdrawn behavior; and (3) anxiety/depression. Community violence exposure was measured by two sub-scales: (1) direct experience/victimization; and (2) witnessing violence. Two sub-scales of domestic violence measured: (1) physical domestic violence; and (2) psychological domestic violence. The Conflict Tactics Scales--physical aggression, psychological aggression toward the child, and spanking--were used as harsh parenting proxies. Other covariates controlled in the analyses included: depression, social support, and substance use and demographic variables.
Results: The result showed that the average age of mothers was 25.16 (SD=6.01), and about 22% of mothers were white, 47.5% black, and 30% other race. About 37% of mothers witnessed community violence, 7% experienced direct victimization, 11% reported physical domestic violence, and 53% reported psychological domestic violence. Harsh parenting mediated the relationship between community violence and child’s aggression as well as between domestic violence and child aggression. Psychological aggression toward the child mediated the impact from maternal witnessing community violence and psychological domestic violence on child’s withdrawn behavior. Psychological aggression also mediated the impact from community violence exposure and psychological domestic violence on child’s anxiety/depression.
Conclusion: This study found that various maternal victimization experiences--at the community-level (though direct or indirect exposure) and at interpersonal-level (though physical or psychological violence)--had negative effects on child’s behavior outcomes through practicing harsh parenting. More studies are needed to further examine the intersection of maternal victimization at both community-level and interpersonal-level, on harsh parenting and child development so as to device effective treatments for mothers and children. Witnessing community violence and/or experiencing psychological violence appeared to have more negative influence on children’s outcomes than direct/physical violence exposure. Trauma-informed interventions can benefit mothers with various victimization experience(s). Moreover, health and social service providers should monitor the behavioral issues of children of mothers who were exposed to violence to prevent children from developing further internalizing and externalizing problems.