Family functioning and physical child abuse: Are certain family types more prone to abuse?
What is different about families that use Severe Violence with their children, beyond the parents' histories and personalities, socioeconomic factors, and the existence of the abuse itself? Are certain family types more prone to abuse? For more than 30 years, scholars and clinicians have studied physical child abuse and others have studied family systems. Yet they remain unable to provide an empirically informed answer to these questions. The current study begins to answer the questions set forth above, using the family as the unit of analysis. The current study used the Conflict Tactic Scale (CTS) to measure parent-to-child Severe Violence, and the Family Functioning Scale (FFS) to evaluate family functioning. The FFS creators established the theoretical and empirical stability for five such attributes: Positive Family Affect, Family Communication, Family Rituals, Family Worries, and Family Conflict. The sample was a college student sample of convenience. The participants were 803 undergraduate students registered in 21 different undergraduate psychology and sociology courses at seven universities across the United States and Canada. The sample was predominantly white (92.9%), unmarried (93.4%), without children of their own (93.1%), and religiously affiliated (Catholic, 48.2%; Protestant, 27.2%; Jewish, 7.9%; Moslem, 0.5%; other/none, 16.1%). There were three times as many women as men. The family base rate of parent-to-child Severe Violence is 187/1,000. Abusive families were significantly lower on Positive Family Affect, Family Communication, and Family Rituals. They had higher scores on Family Worries and Family Conflict. The FFS revealed seven distinct clusters of families, labeled: Optimal, Distressed, Dysfunctional, Enmeshed, Disengaged, Intense, and, Average. The data supported the hypotheses that family type and physical child abuse would be related. Specifically, the more negative characteristics a family had, the higher their rate of Severe Violence. The Optimal family type was well below the sample base rate for Severe Violence. In contrast, the Distressed and Dysfunctional family types were above the mean for Severe Violence (in ascending order). Stress, strain, and distress were associated with exacerbated Severe Violence, while relative and friend support moderated it, although these relationships were not very strong. Implications for clinical practice and research are discussed. ^
Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies
Glenn D Wolfner,
"Family functioning and physical child abuse: Are certain family types more prone to abuse?"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).