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Nurs Res. 2002 May-Jun;51(3):158-67.

Relationships between psychosocial factors and abusive parenting attitudes in low-income single mothers.

Author information

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program, Vanderbilt University, School of Nursing, Nashville, Tennessee 37240, USA. melanie.lutenbacher@vanderbilt.edu



Linkages among family violence, maternal mental health, and parenting attitudes are not clearly understood.


To investigate the relationships of abuse (childhood and/or partner), everyday stressors, self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and anger with abusive parenting attitudes.


Cross-sectional analysis of data collected in interviews with 53 low-income, single mothers from wave two of a 3-wave study. A conceptual framework and bivariate correlations guided a series of multiple regressions to identify the best predictors for each variable.


A high prevalence of abuse, depressive symptoms, and abusive parenting attitudes was found. Few women had ever received mental health treatment. Abuse (partner and childhood physical) predicted higher everyday stressors which in turn predicted lower self-esteem. Childhood abuse and lower self-esteem predicted more depressive symptoms. More depressive symptoms were related to higher levels of state anger. More everyday stressors and more depressive symptoms predicted higher levels of trait anger. Higher levels of anger expression were associated with higher everyday stressors and lower self-esteem. The presence of partner abuse best predicted higher levels of overall abusive parenting attitudes and more parent-child role reversal. Less parental empathy was associated with higher levels of state anger.


This study partially explains the relationships of maternal abuse history and mental health status with parenting attitudes. Other predictors of parenting attitudes remain to be identified. The findings underscore the need for healthcare providers to consider the mental health status and abuse histories of low-income, single mothers. The potential disturbance in the parenting process of single mothers in abusive relationships warrants further investigation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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