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Child Abuse Negl. 2003 Jun;27(6):663-86.

Child-related cognitions and affective functioning of physically abusive and comparison parents.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 7801, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.



The goal of this research was to utilize the cognitive behavioral model of abusive parenting to select and examine risk factors to illuminate the unique and combined influences of social cognitive and affective variables in predicting abuse group membership.


Participants included physically abusive parents (n=56) and a closely-matched group of comparison parents (n=62). Social cognitive risk variables measured were (a) parent's expectations for children's abilities and maturity, (b) parental attributions of intentionality of child misbehavior, and (c) parents' perceptions of their children's adjustment. Affective risk variables included (a) psychopathology and (b) parenting stress. A series of logistic regression models were constructed to test the individual, combined, and interactive effects of risk variables on abuse group membership.


The full set of five risk variables was predictive of abuse status; however, not all variables were predictive when considered individually and interactions did not contribute significantly to prediction. A risk composite score computed for each parent based on the five risk variables significantly predicted abuse status. Wide individual differences in risk across the five variables were apparent within the sample of abusive parents.


Findings were generally consistent with a cognitive behavioral model of abuse, with cognitive variables being more salient in predicting abuse status than affective factors. Results point to the importance of considering diversity in characteristics of abusive parents.

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