ABUSIVE MOTHER-CHILD INTERACTIONS: A CONTROLLED ASSESSMENT OF PARENTING SKILLS.
AuthorSCHINDLER, FRED EDWARD.
KeywordsChild abuse -- United States.
Parent and child -- United States.
Parenting -- United States.
Abused children -- United States.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFew controlled studies exist that examine specific hypotheses about abusive families, especially with regard to direct behavioral observation. Despite two decades of research on child abuse, surprisingly little is known about the specific behavioral excesses and deficits in the parenting skills of abusive parents. In this study, 11 physically abusive mother-child pairs were compared with 12 nonabusive matched controls in a laboratory playroom situation. Parenting skills, as well as interaction patterns, were assessed using three different tasks designed to create varying levels of parental stress and child frustration. One task, known as the Child's Game, consisted of the mother playing with her child in a free play situation where the child was given the instructions to select the toy or game. On the second task, the Parent's Game, mothers were told to select the activity and motivate their children to play along with them. The last task, the Bean Game, required mothers to induce their children to put beans into a decorated jar for a relatively long period of time. Mother-child interactions were observed and coded, providing frequency (rate per minute) and proportion (percentage of each behavior relative to total behavior) data on the occurrence of twelve behaviors hypothesized from the literature to be potentially relevant to parenting ability. Questionnaire measures of knowledge of child behavior, and social desirability were also administered. Discriminant function analyses of the data revealed that 10 of 11 abusive mothers and 10 of 12 control mothers could correctly identified, representing an 87% classification rate. The predominant difference between the two groups was in overall rate of activity. Abusive mothers were seen to engage in significantly less behavior than control mothers; behavior rates were essentially similar for both groups of children. One individual behaviors, questions and approval statements were the only two categories that significantly differed, with abusive mothers less likely to engage in either one. However, when frequency of behavior was corrected for overall rate effects, no differences on individual behaviors were found. Abusive mothers were also observed to use less contingent praise while abused children were found to comply to commands less often. Speculation as to which behavioral patterns mediate abusive episodes, as well as suggestions as to how to better design diagnostic, treatment and prevention programs are offered.