Social Support and Stress Factors in Child Maltreatment among Alcoholic Families

By Muller, Robert T. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, July 1994 | Go to article overview

Social Support and Stress Factors in Child Maltreatment among Alcoholic Families


Muller, Robert T., Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Abstract

The relationships among social support, stress, child maltreatment and child agg ressiveness in alcoholic families were investigated. Subjects were 62 fathers, 65 mothers, and 65 target children. Participants consisted of families in which the biological parents we re either married or cohabiting, and in which there was a male child between the ages of 3 and 5 y ears. Individual difference factors assessed were extent of social support, stress, ch ild maltreatment, and child aggressiveness. Based on prior research, 3 process models were propos ed and tested against one another using path analysis. For this high risk alcoholic sample, r esults suggested that for fathers, social support and stress were each independent direct predict ors of child maltreatment. In contrast, for mothers, social support was an indirect predictor of child maltreatment, and it buffered (moderated) the effect of stress on child maltreat ment. For both fathers and mothers, lifetime alcohol problems predicted extent of child maltrea tment. The data also indicated that child maltreatment influenced child aggressiveness.

Resume

On a etudie les rapports entre le soutien social, le stress, le mauvais traiteme nt tea enfants et l'agressivite tea enfants dans les menages d'alcooliques. Les sujets etaient 62 peres de famine, 65 meres et 65 enfants cibles. L'echantillon se composait de f amilles dont les parents biologiques etaient maries ou cohabitaient, et dans lesquelles il y avait un enfant ma@le a@ge d'entre trots et cinq aria. Parmi les facteurs de differences individuelles evalues, on retrouve l'etendue du soutien social, du stress, du ma uvais traitement tea enfants et de l'agressi - vite tea enfants. En se basant sur tea recherches anterieures, on a propose trots modeles de process us que l'on a evalues en les comparant l'un a l'autre a u moyen de l'analyse tea coefficients de direction. Dans cet echantillon de menag es alcooliques a risque eleve, les resultats ont permis de croire que dans le cas t ea peres, le soutien social et le stress etaient deux variables predictives directe s du mauvais traitement tea enfants. Chez les meres, par contre, le soutien social etait une variable predictive indirecte du mauvais traitement tea enfants et il amortissait (attenu ait) l'effet du stress sur ce mauvais traitement. Pour les peres comme pour les meres, tea prob lemes d'alcool pour la duree de la vie laissaient prevoir l'ampleur du mauvais traitem ent tea enfants. Les donnees ont Quasi indique que le mauvais traitement tea enfants influencait l'agressivite chez eux.

Social Support, Stress, and Child Maltreatrnent

Considerable evidence has accumulated to suggest that stress is associated with child maltreatment (Smith, 1984; Wolfe, 1985, 1987). Justice and Justice (1976) found that abusing parents, in comparison with non abusing parents, experienced significantly highe r levels of life change. Similarly, Milner and Wimberley (1980) found higher levels of environme ntal stress among abusive parents. Some studies have suggested that the kind of life change associated with abusive families is more likely to be experienced by these parents as aversive ( cf. Mash, Johnston, & Kovitz, 1983; Rosenberg & Reppucci, 1983). In an experimental analo gue of child abuse, Passman and Milhern (1978) found that heightened stress resulted in incre ased maternal punitiveness. In a similar vein, Dumas and Wahler (1985) demonstrated that moth ers who were subjected to high rates of adverse "setting events" (e.g., conflict with relativ es, noisy neighbours, etc.) were found to be inconsistent in matching their disciplinary b ehaviours to the actions of their children.

Another important factor in the manifestation of child maltreatment is the extent to which individuals have social supports. Zigler and Hall (1989) found that isolation o f the family from social supports, neighbourhood networks, and extended families contributes to ch ild maltreatment. …

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