A Study Of Mothers And Children At Risk For Child Abuse

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




In a correlational study, 100 mothers and their children, ages 2 to 10 years, were screened for child abuse potential during visits to a hospital-based pediatric clinic. Mothers were interviewed and filled out three paper and pencil measures, the CAP Inventory, Levenson's Locus-of-Control Scale, and the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist. Children were observed on a compliance task with an outside adult observer. Based on coercion theory, the hypotheses were made that mothers identified as high risk for physically abusing their children would report significantly more behavior problems in their children, and would rate themselves as externally oriented on locus-of control measures. Multiple regression analyses indicated the best set of predictor variables for child abuse potential included mothers' perception of control by powerful others, mothers' reports of conduct-disorder problems in her child, and mothers' lie scale scores. Conduct disorder, socialized aggression, and anxiety withdrawal behaviors were the three major types of child behavior problems reported by this sample of at-risk mothers. Conduct disorder behavior problems made the most significant contributions to predicting mothers' group membership. (Hi versus low CAP scorers.) Mothers' ratings of child behavior problems did not contribute significantly to predicting child compliance. The findings raise the question of whether two heterogeneous subpopulations of children exist who are "at-risk" for child abuse.


Psychology, Developmental

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