Methods: This is a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a prospective study on the effects of maltreatment. The analysis includes urban mothers who perpetrated maltreatment (substantiation confirmed by case records) yet retained custody (n=75), and comparison mothers recruited via school lists from the same neighborhoods (n=77); 47.4% self-identified as Black and 52.6% Hispanic. Step-wise multivariate general linear models were fit to the data. Maternal education was controlled for (64.5% high school or below). Four subscales (belief in use of corporal punishment, reversing parent-child roles, inappropriate expectations of children, and parental lack of empathy for child’s needs) of the Adolescent Adult Parenting Inventory-2/AAPI-2 were used to measure various dimensions of parenting attitudes.
Results: Our initial model showed comparison mothers differed from the maltreatment mothers on corporal punishment (b=-.179, p=.03), role reversal (b=.307, p<.001), and lack of empathy (b=.296, p<.001). However, after controlling for maternal education, there were no significant maltreatment group differences in parenting attitudes. Instead, education (at least having graduated high school) seemed to confound this relationship, playing a protective role.
Racial/ethnic differences were also found. Controlling for education, Hispanic mothers were less likely to endorse reversing parent-child roles (b=-.227, p=.03) and inappropriate expectations of children (b=-.254, p=.04) relative to Black mothers. Black mothers were more likely to endorse belief in the use of corporal punishment than Hispanic mothers (b=-.236, p=.04). And Black mothers who had maltreated yet still lived with their children were more likely to endorse role reversal (b=.211, p<.001) than Black comparison mothers.
Conclusion and Implications: Findings suggest that there are disparate parenting attitudes by race/ethnicity, but between maltreatment groups, education confounds the relationship. Because Black and Hispanic mothers are overrepresented in the Child Welfare System, and since different parenting attitudes have been linked to disparate outcomes for youth, this study can inform practitioners and researchers on how to tailor parenting assessment/intervention for diverse families. While differences in culture might explain some racial/ethnic differences, our study shows urban Black mothers who have maltreated yet still live with their maltreated children endorse higher parent-child role reversal than their Black comparison counterparts which negates the cultural expectation. Given this, practitioners may want to assess further in this area and as needed, implement/recommend interventions to strengthen family functioning (e.g., a culturally-adapted version of Structural Family Therapy or parent education programs). Future research can focus on these types of interventions that address differences found in parenting attitudes by race/ethnicity. Our findings suggest that assessing across dimensions of parenting may highlight important areas for targeting interventions to prevent recidivism/re-reporting.