Methods: Participants were drawn from the Fragile Families Child Well-being Study (FFCWS), a longitudinal birth cohort study of approximately 5000 children born between 1998-2000 in 20 U.S. cities. The analysis included a subset of 3,429 FFCWS mother’s responses at children’s ages 15 and children’s responses at age 15. Aggravation in parenting was measured using items adapted from the Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) when the child was nine (Abidin, 1995). Child abuse was assessed using items from the Parent Child Conflict Tactics Scales (CTSPC) at child’s age 15 (Straus et al., 1998). Positive adolescent functioning was measured using 20 items from the EPOCH Measure of Adolescent Wellbeing when the child was 15 (Kern et al., 2016). This study examined the mediating effect of child abuse on the link between parental aggravation and positive psycho-social functioning among adolescents, after controlling for covariates including child gender, mothers’ age, education, race, and income. To examine direct and indirect effects, a path analysis with robust maximum likelihood estimation was conducted using Mplus version 7.
Results: After controlling for covariates, the direct effects of aggravation in parenting and child abuse on adolescent functioning were significant; aggravation in parenting was negatively associated with adolescents’ functioning (b=-0.020, p<.001), and child abuse was negatively associated with adolescents’ functioning (b=-0.014, p<.01). The direct effect of aggravation in parenting on child abuse was significant; aggravation in parenting was positively associated with child abuse (b=0.134, p<.001). The path model demonstrated significant indirect effects of aggravation in parenting on adolescents’ functioning via child abuse (b=-0.012, p<.05).
Conclusions and Implications: Study findings suggest that parental aggravation is negatively associated with adolescents' positive functioning, especially through psychological abuse and neglect. Social workers addressing parental aggravation through innovative programs for parents and families may also improve adolescents' positive functioning. Especially in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased risk for parental aggravation or burnout affected by economic hardship, parental unemployment, diminished social support, and decreased time for leisure activities. Thus, it is more important than ever for social workers to address parental aggravation to prevent child maltreatment and enhance children’s positive psycho-social functioning.