Parents’ perception of child behavior, parenting stress, and child abuse potential: Individual and partner influences


14 February 2019

Based on the Social Information Processing model of parenting risk for child abuse, the present study examined the associations between mothers’ and fathers’ perception of child behavior and child abuse potential, as well as whether parenting stress mediates the association between these constructs. Two hundred and fifty-nine mother-father couples raising preschool children answered the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), and the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI). The results of dyadic path analysis showed that perception of child behavior was related to heightened parenting stress and abuse potential in both mothers and fathers. Concerning partner effects, we found that mothers’ perception of child behavior problems was positively associated with fathers’ parenting stress and that the higher the mothers’ distress, the higher the fathers’ risk of physical abuse. Finally, parenting distress partially mediated the association between parents’ perception of child behavior and child abuse potential, with mothers’ perception of their children as problematic showing a significant indirect effect through distress on their own abuse risk and on fathers’ CAP as well. These findings suggest that parental distress may represent a critical mechanism by which parents’ negative views of their children contribute to abuse potential. Moreover, mothers seem to influence fathers’ tendency towards abusive behaviors.


Sarah Miragoli Stefani Balzarotti Elena Camisasca PaolaDi Blasio


Child Abuse & Neglect Volume 84, October 2018, Pages 146-156

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