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Parental Expectations and Attitudes About Childrearing in High Risk vs Low Risk Child Abusing Families

NCJ Number
G C Rosenblatt
Date Published
136 pages
To determine the relationship between family characteristics and child abuse severity, questionnaires were used to study parents of 35 physically abused children brought to one Los Angeles hospital.
Data were compiled on parental expectations and attitudes about childrearing. Demographic data were collected from raw files of the family development project with which the parents were involved. Although 59 parents completed one or more questionnaires, only 14 completed all 5. The families were designated as either low risk or high risk according to the severity of the child's injury. Multiple regression analysis and discriminant analysis were used to test 10 hypotheses, developed from a literature review, relating parental attitudes to child abuse risk. Results indicated that mothers inflicted more serious injuries than did fathers. In addition, older children sustained less serious injuries than did younger children. Comparisons of parental expectations and attitudes did not support the hypotheses that low risk parents have excessive performance demands and that high risk parents are more rejecting of children. Some evidence support the contentions that physical abuse in low risk families stems from a punitive and authoritarian childrearing style and that lack of parental sexual and interpersonal inhibitions were associated with more severe injuries. Factors associated with age had a more central role in injury etiology than did parental expectations and attitudes by themselves. The child's provocative behavior seemed to play a greater role in injury etiology in low risk families than in high risk families. It was concluded that relatively little is known about the causes of differential severity of physical child abuse. Further research is recommended. Tables, a bibliography of about 65 references, and an appendix presenting survey instruments are included.