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Child Maltreat. 2007 Nov;12(4):325-37.

Stress and anger as contextual factors and preexisting cognitive schemas: predicting parental child maltreatment risk.

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  • 1University of Utah, Counseling and Counseling Psychology Program, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9255, USA.


Progress in the child maltreatment field depends on refinements in leading models. This study examines aspects of social information processing theory (Milner, 2000) in predicting physical maltreatment risk in a community sample. Consistent with this theory, selected preexisting schema (external locus-of-control orientation, inappropriate developmental expectations, low empathic perspective-taking ability, and low perceived attachment relationship to child) were expected to predict child abuse risk beyond contextual factors (parenting stress and anger expression). Based on 115 parents' self-report, results from this study support cognitive factors that predict abuse risk (with locus of control, perceived attachment, or empathy predicting different abuse risk measures, but not developmental expectations), although the broad contextual factors involving negative affectivity and stress were consistent predictors across abuse risk markers. Findings are discussed with regard to implications for future model evaluations, with indications the model may apply to other forms of maltreatment, such as psychological maltreatment or neglect.

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