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Battered Mothers Who Physically Abuse Their Children

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 19 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2004 Pages: 943-952
Carol Coohey
Date Published
August 2004
This study examined why some battered mothers physically abused their children (co-occurrence group; n=53) by comparing them with mothers who were neither battered nor physically abusive to their children (n=57), mothers who were battered but not abusive (n=33), and mothers who were abusive to their children but not battered (n=41).
Compared with both nonbattered and battered women who did not abuse their children, the battered mothers who abused their children were more likely to report that their mothers severely assaulted them as children. Compared with the nonbattered, nonabusive mothers, the abusive mothers were more likely to report that their fathers had severely assaulted them when they were girls; however, this was not the case when compared to the battered but not abusive mothers, who were just as likely to have been abused by their fathers as children. The abusive-only mothers were also as likely as the mothers in the co-occurrence group to have been severely assaulted by their fathers. Some of the findings are consistent with previous research on attachment, which shows that childhood abuse can impair the mother-child relationship. All four groups of mothers received substantial support from their family and friends, so none of the groups could be characterized as socially isolated. There were no differences between the groups on the size of their family networks, and there were no differences between the groups on the size of their friendship networks or the amount of support the mother received from them. The multivariate analyses suggest that a childhood history of abuse by one's mother apparently exerts a powerful influence on a mother's propensity to physically abuse her own children, regardless of whether she is abused by her husband/intimate partner. 1 table and 15 references