Abstract: Effects of Maternal Victimization in Community and Family Context on Behavior Problems of Young Children: The Mediational Role of Harsh Parenting (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

418P Effects of Maternal Victimization in Community and Family Context on Behavior Problems of Young Children: The Mediational Role of Harsh Parenting

Friday, January 12, 2018
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Wan-Yi Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, PA
Yookyong Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Background/Significance: Harsh parenting practice is a precursor to child maltreatment, which in turn, could contribute to serious child behavioral problems such as aggression.  Among potential family risk factors, domestic violence has been recognized as a leading contributor to harsh parenting, given its significant adverse effects on mother’s health.  In the past decade, research has started to note the impact from community violence on mothers and its connection to maternal harsh parenting.  Even though research in this area has been growing, further research is necessary to investigate the relationship between maternal victimization, their ability to effectively parent their children without exerting to use harsh disciplinary actions, and their children’s behavior outcomes.  For families entrenched in on-going family or community violence, the compounding effects of these risk factors may be even more dramatic.  Therefore, this study examined how harsh parenting mediates the link between various forms of maternal victimization and behavioral problems among young children.  

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  Child behavioral outcomes were measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL): (1) aggression; (2) withdrawn behavior; and (3) anxiety/depression.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.