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Child Abuse & Neglect




Parental risk for perpetrating child abuse is frequently associated with intergenerational patterns of abuse: being abused increases the risk for future abuse. Yet, the mechanisms of intergenerational abuse are unclear, and the risk factors for perpetrating child abuse are interrelated. Research suggests that history of childhood abuse, psychiatric distress, and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) are all related risk factors for perpetrating child abuse. We investigated these three risk factors using the developmental psychopathology framework in a racially diverse sample of high-risk women: women residing in domestic violence shelters. 211 mothers residing in domestic violence shelters completed measures of their own childhood abuse (defined narrowly in a 10-item self-report survey), exposure to and severity of IPV victimization, and structured interviews to diagnose psychiatric disorders. We utilized a hierarchical regression model to predict child abuse potential, accounting for risk factors in blocks roughly representing theorized temporal relationships: childhood abuse followed by psychiatric diagnoses, and then recency of exposure to IPV. Consistent with hypotheses, the strongest predictor of current child abuse potential was the psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD. Mediation tests further explicated that the relationship between maternal history of childhood sexual abuse and current potential for perpetrating child abuse is mediated by IPV-related PTSD symptoms. Results suggest that IPV-related PTSD symptoms, rather than exposure to abuse (i.e., childhood abuse or IPV), is most strongly associated with child abuse potential in recent IPV survivors. Interventions which can ameliorate maternal psychopathology and provide resources are recommended for these vulnerable families.

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Child Abuse... Predictable.pdf (639 kB)
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