Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

December 2000


Published in Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 24, No.6 (2000), pp. 767-779. Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. Used by permission.


Objective: This study had two primary objectives: First, to examine the association between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and later parenting characteristics, particularly physical abuse potential, and second, to explore maternal anger as a mediator of the relationship between CSA and adult physical abuse potential.

Method: Utilized a community sample of low SES participants that included 138 mothers classified as having experienced CSA, and a comparison group of 152 non-sexually abused mothers. Parenting variables examined included the mothers' physical abuse potential, nurturance toward their children, unrealistic developmental expectations of children, as well as frequencies of spanking and general punishment. Data was collected via interview and other self-report measures.

Results: Even after controlling for mothers' childhood experience of physical abuse, CSA significantly predicted adult risk of physically abusing one's own children. Further, maternal anger was confirmed as a mediator of the relationship between having been sexually abused as a child and the potential for physically abusing one's own children.

Conclusions: CSA may be a risk factor for subsequent physically abusive parenting, while anger appears to playa significant role in mediating this relationship. Findings are discussed in the context of current knowledge concerning the impact of child sexual abuse and the processes contributing to abusive parenting.