Family Dysfunction and Social Isolation as Moderators Between Stress and Child Physical Abuse Risk

Abstract

Stress is a significant contributor to child physical maltreatment risk. Family and social supports are expected, but less studied, risk factors. Little empirical support clarifies the interactive influence on abuse risk for non-abusive parents. This study examined whether the stress-abuse risk relation was moderated by family dysfunction and social isolation. Subjective appraisals of these factors were administered to 95 community mothers. After creating composite scores using factor loadings from a CFA, multiple regression analyses were conducted to predict abuse risk. As expected, stress predicted abuse risk, with social isolation and, to a lesser extent, family dysfunction serving as moderators. Perceived stress and dysfunctional supports are important, interactive predictors of abuse risk. Future directions consider interactions within other ecological levels.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Annerbäck, E., Svedin, C., & Gustafsson, P. (2010). Characteristic features of severe child physical abuse—A multi-informant approach. Journal of Family Violence, 25, 165–172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bauer, W. D., & Twentyman, C. T. (1985). Abusing, neglectful, and comparison mothers’ responses to child-related and non-child-related stressors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53, 335–343.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bavolek, S. J., & Keene, R. G. (2001). Adult–adolescent parenting inventory-2. Asheville: Family Development Resources Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Belsky, J. (1980). Child physical maltreatment: an ecological integration. American Psychologist, 35, 320–335.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Belsky, J. (1993). Etiology of child physical maltreatment: a developmental-ecological analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 413–434.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Belsky, J., & Vondra, J. (1989). Lessons from child abuse: The determinants of parenting. In D. Cicchetti & V. Carlson (Eds.), Child maltreatment: Theory and research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect (pp. 153–202). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  7. Benedict, M. I., Wulff, L. M., & White, R. B. (1992). Current parental stress in maltreating and nonmaltreating families of children with multiple disabilities. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 155–163.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Berger, L. M. (2005). Income, family characteristics, and physical violence toward children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 107–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Black, D. A., Heyman, R. E., & Smith-Slep, A. M. (2001). Risk factors for child abuse. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 6, 121–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Brooker, S., Cawson, P., Kelly, G., & Wattam, C. (2001). The prevalence of child abuse and neglect: a survey of young people. International Journal of Market Research, 43, 249–289.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Burrell, B., Thompson, B., & Sexton, D. (1994). Predicting child abuse potential across family types. Child Abuse & Neglect, 18, 1039–1049.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Byrne, B. M. (2001). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Casanova, G. M., Domanic, J., McCanne, T. R., & Milner, J. S. (1992). Physiological response to nonchild-related stressors in mothers at risk for child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 31–44.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310–357.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Conners, N. A., Whiteside-Mansell, L., Deere, D., Ledet, T., & Edwards, M. C. (2006). Measuring the potential for child maltreatment: the reliability and validity of the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory-2. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 39–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Crouch, J. L., & Behl, L. E. (2001). Relationships among parental beliefs in corporal punishment, reported stress, and physical child abuse potential. Child Abuse & Neglect, 25, 413–419.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 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 & Neglect, 25, 93–107.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Curenton, S. M., McWey, L. M., & Bolen, M. G. (2009). Distinguishing maltreating versus nonmaltreating at-risk families: implications for foster care and early childhood education interventions. Families in Society, 90, 176–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. De Jong-Gierveld, J., & Kamphuis, F. (1985). The development of a Rasch-Type Loneliness Scale. Applied Psychological Measurement, 9, 289–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. De Jong-Gierveld, J., & Van Tilburg, T. (1999). Manual of the loneliness scale. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit.

    Google Scholar 

  23. De Longis, A., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). The impact of daily stress on health and mood: psychological and social resources as mediators. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 486–495.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gracia, E., & Musitu, G. (1994). Child physical maltreatment typology: an empirical conceptualization. Revista de Psicología Social Aplicada, 4, 53–72.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Gracia, E., & Musitu, G. (2003). Social isolation from communities and child maltreatment: a cross-cultural comparison. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 153–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Graziano, A. M. (1994). Why should we study subabusive violence against children? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 9, 412–419.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Graziano, A. M., & Namaste, K. A. (1990). Parental use of physical force in child discipline. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 449–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Greenwald, R. L., Bank, L., Reid, J. B., & Knutson, J. F. (1997). A discipline-mediated model of excessively punitive parenting. Aggressive Behavior, 23, 259–280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Herrenkohl, R. C., Herrenkohl, E. C., & Egolf, B. P. (1983). Circumstances surrounding the occurrence of child physical maltreatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 424–431.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hillson, J. M. C., & Kuiper, N. A. (1994). A stress and coping model of child maltreatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 261–285.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hoge, R. D., Andrews, D. A., & Faulkner, P. (1989). The family relationship index: validity data. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 897–903.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Holden, W. E., & Banez, G. A. (1996). Child abuse potential and parenting stress within maltreating families. Journal of Family Violence, 11, 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Holm, J. E., & Holroyd, K. A. (1992). The daily hassles scales (revised): does it measure stress or symptoms? Behavioral Assessment, 14, 465–482.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Howell, A., Hauser-Cram, P., & Kersh, J. E. (2007). Setting the stage: early child and family characteristics as predictors of later loneliness in children with developmental disabilities. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 112, 18–30.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kolko, D. J. (1992). Characteristics of child victims of physical violence: research findings and clinical implications. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 244–276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Kolko, D. J., Kazdin, A. E., Thomas, A. M., & Day, B. (1993). Heightened child physical abuse potential: child, parent, and family dysfunction. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 8, 169–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Kotch, J. B., Browne, D. C., Ringwalt, C. L., Dufort, V., Ruina, E., Stewart, P. W., et al. (1997). Stress, social support, and substantiated maltreatment in the second and third years of life. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 1025–1037.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Mapp, S. C. (2006). The effects of sexual abuse as a child on the risk of mothers physically busing their children: a path analysis using systems theory. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 1293–1310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Masten, A. S., & Wright, M. O. (1998). Cumulative risk and protection models of child maltreatment. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 2, 7–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Milner, J. S. (1986). The child abuse potential inventory: Manual (2nd ed.). Webster: Psytec.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Milner, J. S. (1993). Social information processing and physical child abuse. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 275–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Milner, J. S. (1994). Assessing physical child abuse risk: the child abuse potential inventory. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 547–583.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Milner, J. S. (2000). Social information processing and child physical abuse: Theory and research. In D. J. Hansen (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation (Motivation and child physical maltreatment, Vol. 46, pp. 39–84). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Milner, J. S., & Crouch, J. L. (1993). Physical child abuse. In R. L. Hampton (Ed.), Family violence: Prevention and treatment (pp. 25–55). Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Milner, J. S., & Dopke, C. (1997). Child physical abuse: Review of offender characteristics. In D. A. Wolfe, R. J. McMahon, & R. D. Peters (Eds.), Child abuse: New directions in prevention and treatment across the lifespan (pp. 27–54). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  46. Mollerstrom, W. W., Patchner, M. A., & Milner, J. S. (1992). Family functioning and child abuse potential. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 48, 445–454.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Moncher, F. (1995). Social isolation and child-abuse risk. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 76, 421–433.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Moos, R. S., & Moos, B. S. (1976). A typology of family social environments. Family Process, 15, 357–371.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Moos, R. S., & Moos, B. S. (1986). Family environment scale manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologist Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Ortega, D. M. (2002). How much support is too much? Parenting efficacy and social support. Children and Youth Services Review, 24, 853–876.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Paavilainen, E., & Astedt-Kurki, P. (2003). Functioning of child maltreatment families: lack of resources of caring within the family. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 17, 139–147.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Rodriguez, C. M. (2008). Ecological predictors of disciplinary style and child abuse potential in a Hispanic and Anglo-American sample. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 17, 336–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rodriguez, C. M. (2010). Personal contextual characteristics and cognitions: predicting child abuse potential and disciplinary style. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 315–335.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Rodriguez, C. M., & Green, A. J. (1997). Parenting stress and anger expression as predictors of child abuse potential. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 367–377.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Rodriguez, C. M., & Richardson, M. J. (2007). Stress and anger as contextual factors and preexisting cognitive schemas: predicting parental child maltreatment risk. Child Maltreatment, 12, 325–337.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Roosa, M. W., & Beals, J. (1990). Measurement issues in family assessment. The case of the family environment scale. Family Process, 29, 191–198.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Sedlak, A. J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., et al. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Sidebotham, P. (2001). An ecological approach to child abuse: a creative use of scientific models in research and practice. Child Abuse Review, 10, 97–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Stith, S. M., Liu, T., Davies, L. C., Boykin, E. L., Alder, M. C., Harris, J. M., et al. (2009). Risk factors in child maltreatment: a meta-analytic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 13–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Stockhammer, T. F., Salzinger, S., Feldman, R. S., Mojica, E., & Primavera, L. H. (2001). Assessment of the effect of physical child abuse within an ecological framework: measurement issues. Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 319–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Finkelhor, D., Moore, D. W., & Runyan, D. (1998). Identification of child maltreatment with the Parent–child Conflict Tactics Scales: development and psychometric data for a national sample of American parents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22, 249–270.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1996). Using multivariate statistics (3rd ed.). New York: Harper Collins.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Taylor, C. A., Guterman, N. B., Lee, S. J., & Rathouz, P. J. (2009). Intimate partner violence, maternal stress, nativity, and risk for maternal maltreatment of young children. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 175–183.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2011). Child physical maltreatment 2010. Retrieved August 2012 from http://archive.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/cm10.pdf.

  65. Varni, J. W., & Setoguchi, Y. (1993). Effects of parental adjustment on the adaptation of children with congenital or acquired limb deficiencies. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 14, 13–20.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Vaux, A., & Harrison, D. (1985). Support network characteristics associated with support satisfaction and perceived support. American Journal of Community Psychology, 13, 245–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Vaux, A., & Wood, J. (1987). Social support resources, behavior, and appraisals: a path analysis. Social Behavior and Personality, 15, 105–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Wekerle, C., Wall, A. M., Leung, E., & Trocme, N. (2007). Cumulative stress and substantiated maltreatment: the importance of caregiver vulnerability and adult partner violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31, 427–443.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Whipple, E. E., & Richey, C. A. (1997). Crossing the line from physical discipline to child abuse: how much is too much? Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 431–444.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Whipple, E. E., & Webster-Stratton, C. (1991). The role of parental stress in physically abusive families. Child Abuse & Neglect, 15, 279–291.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Williamson, J. M., Borduin, C. M., & Howe, B. A. (1991). The ecology of adolescent physical maltreatment: a multilevel examination of adolescent physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 449–457.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Wissow, L. S., & Wilson, M. E. (1992). Use of epidemiological data in the diagnosis of physical child abuse: variations in response to hypothetical cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 45–55.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Meagan C. Tucker.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tucker, M.C., Rodriguez, C.M. Family Dysfunction and Social Isolation as Moderators Between Stress and Child Physical Abuse Risk. J Fam Viol 29, 175–186 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-013-9567-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Child maltreatment risk
  • Physical child abuse potential
  • Social support
  • Family dysfunction
  • Perceived stress