Underlying mechanisms for racial disparities in parent-child physical and psychological aggression and child abuse risk

Academic Article


  • Background: Understanding factors that contribute to parents’ use of physical and psychological parent-child aggression (PCA) is critical in efforts to mitigate child maltreatment. Objective: Extant research has not adequately distinguished risk factors that may differ by race. Participants and methods: The present study investigated potential racial differences in worry, approval of PCA, justification for PCA use, negative child intent attributions, and discrimination experiences in relation to child abuse risk and physical and psychological PCA use in a sample of 292 Black (44.9 %) and White mothers. Results: As hypothesized, compared to White mothers, Black mothers demonstrated higher child abuse risk and reported more PCA use, stronger approval for using PCA, and more justification of their PCA to teach children obedience. Although Black mothers reported more discipline-relevant worry as well as more experience of discrimination, White mothers’ lower trait worry related to their greater approval of PCA for discipline, which indirectly related to their abuse risk. Contrary to expectations, perceptions of greater discrimination were related to White mothers’ increased child abuse risk, approval of PCA, and justification for PCA because of anger and to teach obedience—findings not observed for Black mothers. Conclusions: The current results underscore the need for additional research on the role of discrimination and the cultural context of parenting and highlight the importance of explicitly testing racial differences to develop more culturally informed abuse prevention approaches.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 2360935
  • Author List

  • Rodriguez CM; Lee SJ; Ward KP
  • Volume

  • 117