Advertisement

Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 163–175 | Cite as

Parents Who Abuse: What Are They Thinking?

  • Alexandra C. Seng
  • Ronald J. Prinz
Article

Abstract

Child abuse is a major social concern around the world. Important to tackling the problem is an understanding of the mechanisms contributing to abusive parenting. This article brings together research on the cognitive variables associated with abusive or high-risk parenting. Considered are dysfunctional child-centered and parent-centered cognitions as potentially critical correlates of abusive behavior. The development of dysfunctional cognitions is also explored. Cognitive vulnerabilities alone are typically not sufficient for the occurrence of abuse. Interactions with additional factors, such as an ability to inhibit aggression, problem-solving capabilities, parenting skills, social isolation, and societal context are examined.

Keywords

Child abuse Cognitions Parenting Dysfunctional processes 

References

  1. Ateah, C., & Durrant, J. E. (2005). Maternal use of physical punishment in response to child misbehavior: Implications for child abuse prevention. Child Abuse and Neglect, 29, 169–185.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aunola, K., Nurmi, J. E., Onatsu-Arvilommi, T., & Pulkkinen, L. (1999). The role of parents’ self-esteem, mastery-orientation and social background in their parenting styles. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40, 307–317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Averill, J. R. (1982). Anger and aggression: An essay on emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  4. Azar, S. T. (1986). A framework for understanding child maltreatment: An integration of cognitive behavioral and developmental perspectives. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 18, 340–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Azar, S. T., Breton, S. J., & Miller, L. R. (1998). Cognitive-behavioral group work and physical child abuse: Intervention and prevention (376–400). In K. C. Stoiber & T. R. Kratochwill (Eds.), Handbook of group intervention for children and families (pp. 42–59). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Azar, S. T., Nix, R. L., & Makin-Byrd, K. N. (2005). Parenting schemas and the process of change. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 31, 45–58.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baldwin, M. W. (1997). Relational schema as a source of if-then self inference procedures. Review of General Psychology, 1, 326–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Balge, K. A., & Milner, J. S. (2000). Emotion recognition ability in mothers at high and low risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 1289–1298.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beauchaine, T. P., Strassberg, Z., Kees, M. R., & Drabick, D. A. G. (2002). Cognitive response repertoires to child noncompliance by mothers of aggressive boys. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 89–102.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bethea, L. (1999). Primary prevention of child abuse. American Family Physician, 59, 1577–1585.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Bower-Russa, M. E., Knutson, J. K., & Winebarger, A. (2001). Disciplinary history, adult disciplinary attitudes, and risk for abusive parenting. Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 219–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buchanan, A. (1996). Cycles of child maltreatment: Facts, fallacies, and interventions. New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  14. Bugental, D. B. (1992). Affective and cognitive processes within threat-oriented family systems. In I. E. Sigel, A. V. McGillicuddy-DeLisi, & J. J. Goodnow (Eds.), Parental belief systems: The psychological consequences for children (pp. 219–248). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Incorporated.Google Scholar
  15. Bugental, D. B., & Happaney, K. (2001). Attributional bias in parenting: When are caregiving relationship transformed into power struggles. In J. R. Gerris (Ed.), Dynamics of parenting (pp. 17–31). Apeldorn, Netherlands: Garant.Google Scholar
  16. Camras, L. A., Ribordy, S., Hill, J., Martino, S., Spaccarelli, S., & Stefani, R. (1988). Recognition and posing of emotional expressions by abused children and their mothers. Developmental Psychology, 24, 776–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caselles, C. E., & Milner, J. S. (2000). Evaluations of child transgressions, disciplinary choices, and expected child compliance in a no-cry and a crying infant condition in physically abusive and comparison mothers. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 477–491.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chaffin, M., Silovsky, J. F., Funderburk, B., Valle, L. A., Brestan, E. V., Balachova, T., et al. (2004). Parent–Child Interaction Therapy with physically abusive parents: Efficacy for reducing future abuse reports. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 500–510.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chilamkurti, C., & Milner, J. S. (1993). Perceptions and evaluations of child transgressions and disciplinary techniques in high and low risk mothers and their children. Child Development, 64, 1801–1814.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Corse, S. J., Schmid, K., & Trickett, P. K. (1990). Social network characteristics of mothers in abusing and nonabusing families and their relationships to parenting beliefs. Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 44–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cote, L. R., & Azar, S. T. (1997). Child age, parent and child gender, and domain differences in parents’ attributions and responses to children’s outcomes. Sex Roles, 36, 23–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crittendon, P. M. (1985). Social networks, quality of child-rearing and child development. Child Development, 56, 1299–1313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Crouch, J. L., Milner, J. S., & Thomsen, C. (2001). Childhood physical abuse, early social support, and risk for maltreatment: Current social support as a mediator of risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 25, 93–107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dadds, M. R., Mullins, M. J., McAllister, R. A., & Atkinson, E. (2003). Attributions, affect, and behavior in abuse-risk mothers: A laboratory study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 21–45.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dattilio, F. M. (2005). The restructuring of family schemas: A cognitive-behavior perspective. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 31, 15–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dixon, L., Hamilton-Giachritsis, C., & Browne, K. (2005). Attributions and behaviors of parents abused as children: Mediational analysis of the intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment (Part II). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 58–68.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dopke, C. A., Lundahl, B. W., Dunsterville, W., & Lovejoy, M. C. (2003). Interpretations of child compliance in individuals at high- and low-risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 285–302.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dopke, C. A., & Milner, J. S. (2000). Impact of child noncompliance on stress appraisals, attributions, and disciplinary choices in mothers at high and low risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24, 493–504.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frodi, A. M., & Lamb, M. E. (1980). Child abusers’ responses to infant smiles and cries. Child Development, 51, 238–241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fromm, S. (2001). Total estimated cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States: Statistical Evidence. Chicago, IL: Prevent Child Abuse. Retrieved November 23, 2005 from http://www.preventchildabuse.org/learn_more/research_docs/cost_analysis.pdf.
  31. Gelles, R. J. (1982). An exchange/social control approach to understanding intrafamily violence. Behavior Therapist, 5, 5–8.Google Scholar
  32. Gershater-Molko, R. M., Lutzker, J. R., & Wesch, D. (2003). Project safecare: Improving health, safety, and parenting skills in families reported for, and at-risk for child maltreatment. Journal of Family Violence, 18, 377–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Harkness, S., & Super, C. M. (1993). The developmental niche. In L. Eldering & P. Lesseman (Eds.), Early interaction and culture (pp. 115–132). Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  34. Haskett, M. E., Smith Scott, S., Grant, R., Sabourin Ward, C., & Robinson, C. (2003). Child-related cognitions and affective functioning of physically abusive and comparison parents. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 663–686.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Huesmann, L. R. (1988). An information processing model for the development of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 14, 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hughes, J. R., & Gottlieb, L. N. (2004). The effects of the Webster-Stratton parenting program on maltreating families: Fostering strengths. Child Abuse and Neglect, 28, 1081–1097.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Joiner, T. E., & Wagner, K. D. (1996). Parental, child-centered attributions and outcome: A meta-analytic review with conceptual and methodological implications. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24, 37–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Katsurada, E., & Sugawara, A. (2000). Moderating effects of mothers’ attribution on the relationships between their affect and parenting behaviors and children’s aggressive behaviors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9, 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kendall-Tackett, K., Lyon, T., Taliaferro, G., & Little, L. (2005). Why child maltreatment researchers should include children’s disability status in their maltreatment studies. Child Abuse and Neglect, 29, 147–151.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Knutson, J. F., & Bower, M. E. (1994). Physically abusive parenting as an escalated aggressive response. In M. Potegal & J. F. Knutson (Eds.), The dynamics of aggression: Biological and social processes in dyads and groups (pp. 195–225). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  41. Korzilius, H. P. L. M., Gerris, R. M., & Felling, A. J. A. (2001). Exploration of mental scripts of perceptions, cognitions, and emotions, explaining parental behaviors. In J. R. M. Gerris (Ed.), Dynamics of parenting (pp. 391–427). Apeldorn, Netherlands: Garant.Google Scholar
  42. Kropp, J. P., & Haynes, O. M. (1987). Abusive and nonabusive mothers’ ability to identify general and specific emotion signals of infants. Child Development, 58, 187–190.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lowenthal, B. (1999). Effects of maltreatment and ways to promote children’s resiliency. Childhood Education, 75, 204–210.Google Scholar
  44. Milner, J. S. (2000). Social information processing and child physical abuse: Theory and research. In D. J. Hansen (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 46, pp. 39–84). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  45. Milner, J. S. (2003). Social information processing in high-risk and physically abusive parents. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 7–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Milner, J. S., & Foody, R. (1994). The impact of mitigating information on attributions for positive and negative child behavior by adults at low- and high-risk for child-abusive behavior. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 13, 335–351.Google Scholar
  47. Milner, J. S., Halsey, L. B., & Fultz, J. (1995). Empathic responsiveness and affective reactivity to infant stimuli in high- and low-risk for physical child abuse mothers. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 767–780.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nayak, M. B., & Milner, J. S. (1998). Neuropsychological functioning: Comparison of mothers at high- and low-risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 687–703.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Patterson, G. R. (1986). Performance models for antisocial boys. American Psychologist, 41, 432–443.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Paz Montes, M., de Paul, J., & Milner, J. S. (2001). Evaluations, attributions, affect, and disciplinary choices in mothers are high and low risk for child physical abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 25, 1015–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Reid, J. (1985). Social interactional patterns in families of abused and non-abused children. In C. Zahn-Waxler, M. Cummings, & M. Radke-Yarrow (Eds.), Social and biological origins of altruism and aggression (pp. 33–45). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sanders, M. R., Pidgeon, A. M., & Gravestock, F. (2004). Does parental attributional retraining and anger management enhance the effects of the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program with parents at risk of child maltreatment? Behavior Therapy, 35, 513–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Scaramella, L. V., & Leve, L. D. (2004). Clarifying parent–child reciprocities during early childhood: The early childhood coercion model. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7, 89–107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Scott, K., & Crooks, C. (2004). Effecting Change in Maltreating Fathers: Critical principles for intervention planning. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Slep, A. M. S., & O’Leary, S. G. (1998). The effects of maternal attributions on parenting: An experimental analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 234–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith, A. M., & O’Leary, S. (1995). Attributions and arousal as predictors of maternal discipline. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19, 459–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stern, S., & Azar, S. T. (1998). Integrating cognitive strategies into behavioral treatment for abusive parents and families with aggressive adolescents. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 3, 387–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Strassberg, Z. (1995). Social information processing in compliance situations by mothers of behavior problem boys. Child Development, 66, 376–389.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Strassberg, Z. (1997). Levels of analysis in cognitive bases of maternal disciplinary dysfunction. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25, 209–305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Strassberg, Z., & Treboux, D. (2000). Interpretations of child emotion expressions and coercive parenting practices among adolescent mothers. Social Development, 9, 80–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Teti, D. M., & Gelfand, D. M. (1991). Behavioral competence among mothers of infants in their first year: The mediational role of self-efficacy. Child Development, 62, 918–929.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Trickett, P., & Kuczynski, L. (1986). Children’s misbehaviors and parental discipline strategies in abusive and nonabusive families. Developmental Psychology, 22, 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Twentyman, C. T., & Plotkin, R. C. (1982). Unrealistic expectations of parents who maltreat their children: An educational deficit that pertains to child development. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 38, 497–503.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. US Department of Health and Human Services. (2005). Child maltreatment 2003. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  65. Webster-Stratton, C. (1990). Stress: A potential disruptor of parent perceptions and family interactions. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 19, 302–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Weiner, B. (1993). On sin versus sickness: A theory of perceived responsibility and social motivation. American Psychologist, 48, 957–965.Google Scholar
  67. Wolfe, D. (1999). Child abuse: Implications for child development and psychopathology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  68. World Health Organization. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  69. World Health Organization (2005). Child abuse and neglect. Retrieved September 5, 2005 from http://who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/neglect/en/print.html.
  70. Wu, S. S., Wang, C.-X., Carter, R. L., Ariet, M., Feaver, E. A., Resnick, M. B., et al. (2004). Risk factors for infant maltreatment: a population-based study. Child Abuse and Neglect, 28, 1253–1264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zussman, J. U. (1978). Relationship of demographic factors to parental discipline techniques. Developmental Psychology, 14, 685–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zussman, J. U. (1980). Situational determinants of parental behavior: Effects of competing cognitive activity. Child Development, 51, 792–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations