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Mothers' physical abusiveness in a context of violence: Effects on the mother–child relationship

  • Susan G. Timmer (a1), Dianne Thompson (a1), Michelle A. Culver (a1), Anthony J. Urquiza (a1) and Shannon Altenhofen (a2)...


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of mothers' physical abusiveness on the quality of the mother–child relationship, and note how it further varied by their exposure to interparental violence (IPV). The sample consisted of 232 clinic-referred children, aged 2 to 7 years, and their biological mothers. Slightly more than a quarter of the children (N = 63, 27.2%) had been physically abused by their mothers; approximately half of these children also had a history of exposure to IPV (N = 34, 54%). Investigating effects of physical abuse in the context of IPV history on mothers' and children's emotional availability, we found that physically abused children with no IPV exposure appeared less optimally emotionally available than physically abused children with an IPV exposure. However, subsequent analyses showed that although dyads with dual-violence exposure showed emotional availability levels similar those of nonabusive dyads, they were more overresponsive and overinvolving, a kind of caregiving controllingness charasteric of children with disorganized attachment styles. These findings lend some support to the notion that the effects of abuse on the parent–child relationship are influenced by the context of family violence, although the effects appear to be complex.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Susan G. Timmer, University of California Davis CAARE Center, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; E-mail:


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Mothers' physical abusiveness in a context of violence: Effects on the mother–child relationship

  • Susan G. Timmer (a1), Dianne Thompson (a1), Michelle A. Culver (a1), Anthony J. Urquiza (a1) and Shannon Altenhofen (a2)...


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