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February 2011Vol. 12, No. 1Predictors of Harsh Parenting Practices With Young Children

Research shows that harsh parenting behaviors negatively impact the emotional development of children and may place them at risk for child abuse. A recent article published in Child Abuse & Neglect looked at maternal harsh parenting practices from birth to age 3 years in relation to contextual and interpersonal risk factors. 

A sample of 488 at-risk mothers who did not have an open case with child protective services was assessed at 1, 2, and 3 years after baseline (birth of child). Researchers analyzed predictor variables that included maternal variables as well as partner aggression.

Key findings from the study indicate:

  • Maternal harsh parenting increased significantly between ages 1 and 2 years and remained high at age 3. 
  • Maternal alcohol use and maternal history of abuse tended to be related to maternal harsh parenting. 
  • Partner aggression was significantly and positively associated with maternal harsh parenting across time.
  • Maternal age and household income showed limited associations with maternal harsh parenting.

Researchers suggest that these findings can be used as a first step in creating developmentally sensitive early intervention programs addressing mother's alcohol use and past history of abuse.  

"Trajectories of Maternal Harsh Parenting in the First 3 Years of Life," by Hyoun Kim, Katherine Pears, Philip Fisher, Cynthia Connelly, and John Landsverk, appears in Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 34(12), and is available for purchase online: