Parental Stress and Children’s Social and Behavioral Outcomes: The Role of Abuse Potential over Time
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Parental stress is a well-established risk factor for adverse child outcomes, including the development of aggression, externalizing behavior problems, and anxiety, as well as compromised emotional coping, impaired social cognition, and diminished treatment response. Abuse potential represents a mechanism by which parental stress may impact child social competence and behavior; evidence links parental stress to abuse potential, and abuse potential to a range of negative child social competence and behavioral outcomes. The current study assessed relationships between parental stress, abuse potential, and child social and behavioral outcomes over time. Parents of children ages 2–6 years (N = 610, 44% girls) reported on perceived parental stress and attitudes towards abuse and neglect, as well as child social competence and behavior problems, before and after a caregiver-directed, community-based intervention. Changes in parental stress, abuse potential, and child social and behavioral outcomes were examined using panel analyses, while controlling for intervention effects and demographic variables. Parental stress predicted child social competence, anxiety/withdrawal, and anger/aggression over time; while the links between stress and anxiety/withdrawal, and stress and social competence, were mediated by child abuse potential, the link between stress and anger/aggression was not mediated by child abuse potential. Findings suggest that abuse potential represents a mechanism by which parental stress and child social and behavioral outcomes are linked. Further, screening for child social competence deficits may identify children at risk for abuse, as well as parents in need of services to reduce stress.
KeywordsParental stress Child abuse potential Child social competence Childhood aggression Child anxiety
This study was supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study’s findings and conclusions are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors certify that Institutional Review Board approval was obtained prior to beginning the project wherein these data were obtained. All APA ethical standards were followed in the research protocol—including informed consent of all study participants.
K.I.C: designed the present study (a secondary data analysis using data from the PACE Program, as described in the Method section), conducted data analyses, and wrote the manuscript. A.D.M: collaborated with the design and writing of the present study, as well as the PACE Program, from which data for the present study were drawn.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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