Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relations among Intimate Partner Violence, Maternal Depressive Symptoms, and Maternal Parenting Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relations among Intimate Partner Violence, Maternal Depressive Symptoms, and Maternal Parenting Behaviors

Article excerpt

The authors examined the relations among intimate partner violence (IPV), maternal depressive symptoms, and maternal harsh intrusive parenting. Using a cross-lagged, autoregressive path model, they sought to clarify the directionality of the relations among these 3 variables over the first 2 years of the child's life. The results indicated that, in this diverse sample of families living in predominantly low-income rural communities (N = 705), higher levels of early IPV were associated with increases in maternal depressive symptoms, which in turn were associated with increases in maternal harsh intrusive parenting behaviors. These findings suggest that interventions aimed at improving the parenting of women exposed to domestic violence may want to simultaneously target IPV and depressive symptomatology.

Key Words: depression, intimate partner violence, parenting.

Parenting practices have long been acknowledged as a potent predictor of child functioning. Higher levels of harsh, controlling parenting behaviors and lower levels of sensitive, supportive parenting have consistently been associated with less ideal outcomes for children of all ages (Cox & Harter, 2003). Parenting during early childhood has been shown to be particularly important for children's functioning, with significant implications for children' s later development (Maccoby, 2000; Verhoeven, Junger, Van Aken, Dekovic, & Van Aken, 2007), yet early childhood is a particularly challenging time for parents to interact with their children sensitively. The transition to parenthood can be a stressful time for parents because it places new demands on the couple and requires reorganization of the family system in order to accommodate the new child (Cox, Paley, Burchinal, & Payne, 1999; Maccoby). As the child approaches toddlerhood, increases in child negative affectivity also contribute to parenting stress in that it increases and broadens the types of demands placed on parents at this time (Keenan & Wakschlag, 2000; Verhoeven et al.). Taken together, these stressors make the first 2 years of the child's life a particularly challenging time for parents to not use negative and controlling tactics with their children, yet it is an especially important time for them to not do so. Although parenting behaviors tend to remain stable over time (Dallaire & Weinraub, 2005), they are not a fixed quality but instead have been shown to be affected by a number of contextual factors, including family dynamics (Cummings & Davies, 2010) and the mother's well-being (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Golding, 1999; Teti, Gelfand, & Pompa, 1990). Given the integral role that parenting plays in child development, it is important to examine factors that may place parenting at risk.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Considerable research has been devoted to the impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) on parenting practices. Being in a physically violent relationship has been associated with more harsh, controlling, and aggressive parenting behaviors (DeVoe & Smith, 2002; Holden & Ritchie, 1 99 1 ; Levendosky & Graham-Bermann, 2001; Straus & Gelles, 1990). Although some research supports the idea that mothers exposed to IPV overcompensate by being more sensitive to and supportive of their children (e.g., Letourneau, Fedick, & Willms, 2007; Levendosky, Huth-Bocks, Shapiro, & Semel, 2003), there is growing evidence that IPV negatively affects parenting behaviors, particularly in the context of maternal depressive symptoms (Levendosky & Graham-Bermann; Levendosky et al., 2003). For example, Levendosky et al. (2003) found that intimate partner physical violence was associated with negative parenting, but only for depressed mothers. Although there is mounting evidence that IPV exerts its influence on parenting via its impact on maternal wellbeing (Campbell, 2002; Levendosky & GrahamBermann), some research suggests that the relations among these three variables are bidirectional (Davila, Bradbury, Cohan, & Tochluk, 1997). …

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