Parent stress and unrealistic expectations : risk factors for child maltreatment

The responses of 10 mothers reported for child abuse, 12 reported for child neglect, and 12 comparison mothers, were compared on the Parenting Stress Index/Short Form (PSI/SF), the Expectations subscale of the Parent Behavior Checklist, and the Abuse subscale of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAP Inventory). The abuse and neglect group mothers had significantly higher scores than comparison mothers on the CAP Inventory; the neglect group had significantly higher stress scores than the comparison group on the PSI/SF; there were no group differences in terms of mothers' expectations for their child's behavior. Stress was a significant predictor of child abuse potential on the CAP Inventory. Post hoc analyses indicated that neglectful mothers reported the use of significantly more discipline and less nurturing with their children than comparison mothers. This study indicates that mothers with high stress levels would benefit from preventive services aimed at the reduction of future maltreatment rates.