Mothers of children with externalizing behavior problems: Cognitive risk factors for abuse potential and discipline style and practices

Academic Article


  • Objective: Utilizing the conceptual framework of the Social Information Processing (SIP) model (Milner, 1993, 2000), associations between cognitive risk factors and child physical abuse risk and maladaptive discipline style and practices were examined in an at-risk population. Methods: Seventy-three mothers of 5-12-year-old children, who were identified by their therapist as having an externalizing behavior problem, responded to self-report measures pertaining to cognitive risk factors (empathic perspective taking, frustration tolerance, developmental expectations, parenting locus of control), abuse risk, and discipline style and practices. The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) provided a confirmation of the child's externalizing behaviors independent of the therapist's assessment. Results: The results of this study suggest several cognitive risk factors significantly predict risk of parental aggression toward children. A parent's ability to empathize and take the perspective of their child, parental locus of control, and parental level of frustration tolerance were significant predictors of abuse potential (accounting for 63% of the variance) and inappropriate discipline practices (accounting for 55% of the variance). Conclusions: Findings of the present study provide support for processes theorized in the SIP model. Specifically, results underscore the potential role of parents' frustration tolerance, developmental expectations, locus of control, and empathy as predictive of abuse potential and disciplinary style in an at-risk sample. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 8748967
  • Author List

  • McElroy EM; Rodriguez CM
  • Start Page

  • 774
  • End Page

  • 784
  • Volume

  • 32
  • Issue

  • 8