The impact of culture upon child rearing practices and definitions of maltreatment

Anne M. Ferrari Department of Psychology, The College of New Rochelle, 29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805, USA

Received 16 August 2001; revised 16 October 2001; accepted 20 November 2001. Available online 12 July 2002.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to assess the relationship between a childhood history of abuse that a parent may have experienced and the cultural beliefs/factors that an individual may subscribe to with current parenting behaviors and attitudes. It was hypothesized that cultural factors would be more predictive of parenting behaviors and attitudes than ethnicity as a demographic label. Method: Using a survey design, 150 parents of Hispanic, African American and European American descent participated. Participants completed the Conflict Tactics Scale, a Familism Scale, a Machismo Scale, a Valuing Children Scale, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, and assigned seriousness ratings to vignettes depicting child maltreatment. Results: A history of childhood abuse was found to be predictive of the use of both physical and verbal punishment by mothers, but not for fathers. Cultural factors/beliefs were predictive of fathers’ parenting behaviors, but not mothers’. Ethnicity, as a demographic variable, continued to be a significant predictor of parenting behaviors and attitudes for all parents, controlling for cultural factors.

Discussion: The present study adds to our understanding of diverse parenting styles, of definitions of child abuse and neglect, and of ethnicity. The findings indicate that ethnicity is a complex factor, one demanding further examination with regard to its components.

Objectif: Le but de cette étude fut d’évaluer l’anamnèse de parents par rapport aux mauvais traitements qu’ils auraient connus et leurs croyances et facteurs vis-à-vis leurs comportements et leurs attitudes en tant que parents. L’hypothèse a voulu que les facteurs culturels, plutôt que l’ethnie et les facteurs démographiques, prédisent les comportements et les attitudes parentaux. Méthode: On a interviewé 150 parents d’extraction hispanique, afro-américaine et européenne. Les participants ont complété le Conflict Tactics Scale, le Familism Scale, une échelle dite Machismo, une échelle mesurant la valorisation des enfants, et le Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. On a aussi demandé aux participants de coter selon la gravité des vignettes décrivant une gamme de mauvais traitements. Résultats: Les mères, et non les pères, ayant subis des mauvais traitements dans leur passé, ont recours à des punitions physiques et psychologiques tandis que les facteurs et les croyances prédisent les mauvais traitements chez les pères, mais non chez les mères. L’ethnie en tant que variable démographique demeure un facteur important prédisant les comportements et les attitudes des pères et des mères, ayant contrôlé les facteurs culturels. Discussion: L’étude élargit nos connaissances des divers types de comportements parentaux, des définitions des mauvais traitements et de la négligence, et de l’ethnie. Les constats indiquent que l’ethnie est un facteur complexe qui exige une étude approfondie de ses composantes.


Objetivo: El objetivo del presente estudio fue evaluar la historia de maltrato que un padre puede haber experimentado y las creencias o factores culturales que un individuo puede suscribir con las conductas y actitudes parentales. Método: Utilizando un diseño de encuesta, participaron en el estudio un total de 150 padres de origen hispanoamericano, afroamericano y europeoamericano. Los participantes completaron el Conflict Tactics Scale, una Escala de “Familismo”, una Escala de Machismo, una Escala de Valoración de los Niños/as, el Childhood Trauma Quetionnaire. Además, se les solicitó que asignaran puntuaciones de seriedad a viñetas que presentaban situaciones de maltrato. Resultados: Se observó que la historia de maltrato infantil era predictora del uso de castigo físico y de castigo verbal en las madres, pero no en los padres. Las creencias y factores culturales fueron predictoras de las conductas parentales de los padres, pero no de las madres. La etnicidad, como variable demográfica, era un predictor significativo de las actitudes y conductas parentales una vez controlados los factores culturales. Discusión: El presente estudio añade conocimiento útil para mejorar el entendimiento de los estilos parentales, de las definiciones de maltrato y abandono infantil, y de la etnicidad. Los hallazgos indican que la etnicidad es un factor complejo que exige más análisis en relación con sus componentes. Author Keywords: Child; Maltreatment; Ethnicity; Machismo; Familism

Article Outline
• Introduction • Methods • Participants • Measures • Machismo Scale • Valuing Children Scale • Familism Scale • Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) • Nurturance Scale • Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS)

• Vignettes depicting child maltreatment • Procedures • Results • Correlations • Ethnic differences • Sex differences • Predictors of physical punishment • Predictors of verbal punishment • Predictors of use of reasoning • Predictors of nurturance • Predictors of seriousness ratings • Moderating effects • Discussion • Familism • Machismo • Valuing children • Intergenerational transmission of abuse • Ethnic differences and similarities • Limitations • Implications • Acknowledgements • References

According to the third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3) completed in 1996 (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996), an estimated 1,553,800 children in the United States were abused or neglected in 1993. According to data compiled by the Children’s Defense Fund (1985), African American children are three times as likely as White children to die from child abuse. Connelly and Straus (1992) also found that being a minority child increased one’s risk for physical abuse; however, Zuravin and Greif (1989) compared African Americans and Caucasians and found that African American children were no more likely, and, in fact, were less likely, to be maltreated by their mothers. In addition, the NIS-3 survey did not report ethnic differences in the incidence of child maltreatment, although they did acknowledge that the public has the perception that more children of color are abused and neglected. Some research has indicated there may be ethnic differences in the prevalence and severity of different types of abuse and neglect (Brenner, Fischer, & Mann-Gray, 1989;

Connelly and Jones; Vaughter, Jelley, Ferrari, & Bernstein, 1997). However, disagreement exists as to whether ethnic differences, when found, are independent of biases in reporting procedures. Mental health professionals, who are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, may apply Anglo-American standards of “good” parenting to judge the behaviors of parents of other cultural groups and label parents’ behaviors as abusive or benign ( Zayas, 1992). In addition, it has been charged that large studies, such as the NIS, often fail to include a sampling of family, friends, and neighbors, from whom White children are more likely to be reported ( Ards, Chung, & Meyers, 1998). Other research has found that the criteria that parents and the lay adult community apply to and define as child maltreatment, as compared to child discipline or other child-rearing practices, do vary with socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and occupational status ( Giovannoni and Rose). To properly interpret parental behaviors as abusive, contextual factors must be considered. The theory of the intergenerational transmission of abuse asserts that the most powerful predictor of parents’ abusive behaviors to their child is the fact that the parent was abused and/or neglected in childhood. However, many parents who have suffered abuse as children, grow up to be loving, non-abusive parents (Zigler & Hall, 1989). Therefore, other factors must interact with a childhood history of maltreatment to either promote or buffer a parent’s behavior with his/her child; one of these factors may be cultural attitudes and values. The present study examined the hypotheses that parental cultural values, rather than the sex or ethnic group membership of the parent, would be associated with parenting behavior. Specifically, familism, machismo, and valuing children were investigated to evaluate how these cultural variables contribute to parental behaviors and how they interact with the parent’s history of maltreatment to predict parent’s use of physical and verbal punishment as well as nurturing behaviors. Thus, rather than considering ethnicity as a biological, endogenous variable, the present research attempted to identify some of the critical features of parenting attitudes and beliefs, which could be similar or different across ethnic groups. Familism, a value characteristic in many Hispanic cultures, places great emphasis upon one’s dependency and reliance upon others, as well as upon the “family unity, with a

sense of obligation among family members, reverence for the elderly, and responsibility to care for all members, especially children” (Zayas, 1992, p. 302). Familism is a commitment to provide an emotional support system for family members, and emphasizes the importance of the family, as opposed to the importance of the individual ( Cuellar, Arnold, & Gonzalez, 1995). Familism is also a characteristic of African American culture, where the importance of family has been well documented. African Americans who live within close proximity to their families report greater life satisfaction ( Ellison, 1990), and family kinships play an important role in the care of young children ( Garcia and McAdoo), and in fostering children’s positive development ( Egeland & Stroufe, 1981). Garcia Coll suggests that the presence of a grandmother in the home of both African American and Hispanic families is associated with a more responsive and less punitive parenting style. The present study investigated the possibility that parents, regardless of ethnic identification or sex, who endorse the beliefs of familism, may be less likely to use physical and verbal punishment, more likely to use reasoning and nurturance, and more likely to rate vignettes of child maltreatment as serious. Cross cultural literature suggests that child maltreatment is less likely in cultures where children are valued for their economic utility, for perpetuating family lines and the cultural heritage, and for sources of emotional pleasure and satisfaction (D’Antonio, Darwish, & McLean, 1993). Bates and Pettit (1981) have suggested that individual differences between parents, such as in the degree to which they like their children and their beliefs about children moderate the effects of child behavior on parenting style. Compared to non-abusive parents, abusive parents have been reported as being less satisfied with their children, finding both childrearing ( Trickett & Susman, 1988), and their children ( Susman, Trickett, Ianotti, Hollenbeck, & Zahn-Waxler, 1985) to be less enjoyable. The present study investigated the possibility that parents who place a high value upon children and are more tolerant of children’s misbehavior would be more likely to use reasoning and nurturance, and less likely to use physical and verbal punishment to discipline their children; and that such parents would judge parental maltreatment of a child to be more serious.

Machismo has been defined as strong adherence to rigid sex roles, sex discrimination, callous attitudes towards women, being aggressive, dominant, authoritarian, and inhibiting nurturing tendencies (Deyoung & Zigler, 1994). Some believe that such a definition is a stereotypical one and point out that machismo includes positive attributes such as emphasis on self-respect and responsibility for protecting and providing for the family ( Torres, 1998). Nonetheless, in families subscribing to machismo attitudes, the father is an authoritarian, who may inflict punishment upon children ( Bird & Canino, 1982) and such punishment is accepted and seen as an instrumental way of assuring children’s proper behavior ( Figueroa-Torres & Pearson, 1979). Although machismo has traditionally been associated with Hispanic males, similar behavior and personality traits can be found in females. Deyoung and Zigler (1994) found that machismo scores were positively correlated with mothers’ and fathers’ use of controlling and punitive disciplinary techniques. The present study investigated the possibility that parents who held strong machismo attitudes would be more likely to use physical and verbal punishment, less likely to use reasoning and nurturance, and less likely to define certain parental behaviors as serious child maltreatment. In summary, the present study had the following objectives: (1) to test for the relationships between the independent (cultural) variables of abuse and neglect that the parents’ experienced as a child, the parents’ endorsement of machismo ideals, the value that parents held for children, and the parents’ attitudes of familism, with the dependent (parenting) variables of parents’ severity ratings of vignettes of abuse and neglect, use of verbal and/or physical punishment, and use of reasoning and nurturance in the parenting of their own children; and (2) to test the hypothesis that the cultural variables of familism, machismo, and valuing children would interact with the severity of the parents’ childhood trauma to buffer or strengthen the dependent variables of use of physical and verbal punishment, use of reasoning and nurturance, and severity ratings of vignettes describing child maltreatment (Table 1). It was hypothesized that the parent’s cultural values would be more predictive of his or her parenting behavior than would demographic variables, such as ethnic group membership. Table 1. Independent and dependent variables

Participants Seventy-five fathers and 75 mothers, non-traditional students enrolled in evening and weekend classes at local universities and community colleges, participated in the study. The participants were volunteers who were awarded extra class credit for their participation. Participants were evenly divided according to their self-defined ethnic identity; 33% of the participants were African American, 33% were Hispanic (Puerto Rican and Dominican), and 33% were European American. The mean age of the sample was 34, the standard deviation was 10.33 and ages ranged from 19 to 60. Fifty-six percent of the participants had already completed some college, 26% were college graduates, and 16% had just completed high school. Eighty-six percent of the sample were employed, and 83% were employed full time. Nearly all of the fathers (96%) worked full time. Seventy-nine percent of the mothers worked, and 68% were employed full time. Although all participants had their child living in their home, 38% of the participants lived with their child and their spouse, 14% lived with their child and the child’s grandparents, and 15% lived with their child and “other relatives.” Nineteen percent lived with their child and their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and 15% were single parents. Of the single parents, 25% were single fathers. Measures Participants completed a demographic information questionnaire and seven scales and checklists presented in a test booklet in random order to control for fatigue, order effects, and response set effects. The Machismo Scale, Familism Scale, Valuing Children Scale,

and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire consisted of the independent variables, while the Conflict Tactics Scale, the Nurturance Scale, and the Vignettes of child maltreatment were used to measure the dependent variables. The demographic questionnaire requested information about the respondent’s age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, living arrangements, occupational status, and highest level of education obtained.
Machismo Scale

The Machismo subscale, which is part of the Multiphasic Assessment of Cultural Constructs—Short Form (Macc-SF), devised by Cuellar et al. (1995), measured gender role attitudes. The scale has 17 items, and some sample items include: “Boys should not be allowed to play with dolls, and other girls’ toys,” and “There are some jobs that women simply should not have.” Respondents reported whether they believed the statements to be true or false; scores can range from 0 to 17. In order to increase the variability of responses, the present research utilized a 6-point response scale where response choices ranged from “0” corresponding to “Strongly disagree” to “5” corresponding to “Strongly agree.” Higher scores indicate stronger endorsement of machismo attitudes; and scores could range from 0 to 85. Deyoung and Zigler (1994) concluded that the scale had good construct validity and utilized it with a sample of Guyanese and Caucasian families. The scale demonstrated good internal reliability, with a coefficient alpha of .78 ( Cuellar et al., 1995); in the present study the Cronbach alpha was found to be .84.
Valuing Children Scale

A 15-item scale designed by the author measured the value placed upon children by the parent, that is, the valuing of children. This short Valuing Children (VAL) Scale asked participants to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements concerning the acceptance of children into the family and community, such as acceptance of children in restaurants, airplane travel, and adult conversation. Response choices range from a value of “0” corresponding to “strong disagreement” to a value of “5,” corresponding to “strong agreement.” Higher scores indicated stronger valuing of children, and scores could range from 0 to 75. Some sample items from the scale include:

“Young children should be able to sit through a 3-hour movie like the Titanic without disturbing their parents;” and “Kid-friendly restaurants like “Friendlys” and “Ground Round” are a bad idea because they encourage children to misbehave at dinnertime.” The Cronbach alpha for the 15-item scale was .68 in the present study.
Familism Scale

Familism was measured with The Brief Familism Scale constructed by Buriel and Rivera (1980) which consists of four items. Responses are made on a 6-point scale on which “0” indicates “strong disagreement” and “5” indicates “strong agreement”; scores can range from 0 to 20. Higher scores reflect endorsement of stronger familism attitudes. Sample items include: “Relatives are more important than friends,” and “You should think of what is important for your family more than you think of what is good for yourself personally.” The internal consistency estimates based on Cronbach’s alpha were .74 for Anglo-Americans and .82 for Mexican Americans ( Buriel & Rivera, 1980). Good construct validity has also been documented ( Buriel & Rivera, 1980). However, since the Familism Scale is very short, two items from the Familism subscale of the Multiphasic Assessment of Cultural Constructs—Short Form (Macc-SF), by Cuellar et al. (1995), which had the highest item-total correlation coefficients with their total scale score, were added. With the added items, scores on the Familism Scale could range from 0 to 36. In the present study, a Cronbach alpha of .76 was found for the 6-item scale.
Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ)

The parents’ childhood maltreatment was assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) a retrospective instrument designed to assess the severity of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect and emotional neglect (Bernstein, 1993). The CTQ is a 70-item self-report instrument that asks respondents to evaluate their childhood experiences retrospectively. Each item on the questionnaire begins with the phrase, “When I was growing up …” and the response is reported on a 5point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (Never True) to 5 (Very Often True). For example:

“When I was growing up, my parents were too drunk or too high to take care of the family” (from the Physical Neglect Scale). Higher scores indicate ratings of more severe abuse and neglect; and the total scale scores can range from 70 to 350. The CTQ has shown high levels of internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha=.80–.97) and test-retest reliability (ICC=.80–.88) (Bernstein et al., 1994). The CTQ has also demonstrated good convergent validity with a structured interview for childhood trauma and with therapists’ ratings ( Bernstein, Ahluvalia, Pogge, & Handelsman, 1997; Bernstein et al., 1994). The present study found the Cronbach alpha was .95.
Nurturance Scale

Parents’ support and warmth for their children was assessed with items from Block’s (1981) Child-Rearing Practices Report. Rickel and Biasatti (1982) subjected Block’s original 91-item scale to a factor analysis, and a two factor solution yielded two subscales, a 22-item Restrictiveness Scale and an 18-item Nurturance Scale. Nurturance items reflect an endorsement of flexible child-rearing attitudes and practices as well as the parents’ willingness to listen to and share feelings and experiences with their children. The response choices on the scale ranges from “0,” “not at all descriptive of me” to “5,” “highly descriptive of me.” High scores indicate high levels of warmth and support, and scores can range from 0 to 90. Sample items from the Nurturance Scale include: “My child and I have warm intimate moments together,” and “I joke and play with my child.” The Cronbach’s alphas reported for the Nurturance Scale were .84, .82, and .73 for samples of male and female undergraduates, parents, and undergraduates, respectively (Rickel & Biasatti, 1982). The Nurturance Scale has also demonstrated good construct validity ( Dekovic, Janssens, & Gerris, 1991). When used with a Black sample in the Barbados, a factor analysis revealed the same factor loadings that had been obtained by Rickel and Biasatti’s (1982) North American sample ( Payne & Furnham, 1992). With the present sample, the Nurturance Scale showed a Cronbach alpha of .92.
Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS)

The Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979) was used as a behavioral measure of the degree of punitiveness exhibited by parents and indicates the parent’s level of risk to abuse his or her child. Adult respondents are asked how often they behaved in particular ways when they had a disagreement with their child, during the previous year. The scale depicts physically and psychologically abusive and positive behaviors. The CTS contains 18 items that yield three, factorially separate variables: (1) use of rational discussion and agreement, for example, “discussed an issue calmly” (three items); (2) use of verbal and non-verbal expressions of hostility, for example, “insulted or swore at the other” (seven items); and (3) use of physical force or violence (eight items), for example, “threw something at the other.” Responses range from “Never” (0) to “At least once a week” (5). Higher scores indicate a higher risk of being abusive to the child; and scores could range from 0 to 90. The reliability and validity of the CTS have been assessed over the 15-year period since its development (Straus, 1990). Internal consistency reliabilities of the three subscales parallel their lengths, with reasoning showing the lowest reliability (r=.42–.76), then verbal aggression (r=.62–.88) and physical aggression showing the highest reliability (r=.42–.96). The current study found the Cronbach alpha to be .50 on the reasoning portion, .76 on the verbal punishment portion, and .65 on the physical punishment portion.
Vignettes depicting child maltreatment

The parents’ perceptions and definitions of abusive and neglectful behaviors were measured with a variation of Giovannoni and Becerra’s (1979) vignette method. The vignettes describe incidences of child maltreatment; and respondents rate the severity of the maltreatment to the child by the parent portrayed in the story. The factor analysis of the severity ratings of the behaviors of parents in the vignettes extracted nine factors, or scales, of maltreatment behaviors: physical abuse, sexual abuse, fostering delinquency, inadequate supervision, emotional mistreatment, use of drugs/alcohol, failure to provide, educational neglect, and inappropriate parental sexual mores. Respondents rate the seriousness of the parental treatment of the child using a 9-point scale, with “9”

corresponding to acts deemed most serious. The Sexual Abuse Scale, which contains the lowest number of items, has scores which can range from 5 to 45, and the Failure to Provide Scale, with the highest number of items, has scores which can range from 17 to 153. Giovannoni and Becerra (1979) tested all the vignettes for reliability using test-retest and equivalent testing methods. Cronbach’s alpha varied from a low of .70 to a high of .98. The present research utilized a 6-point response scale with “0” corresponding to “the parent is not mistreating the child” and “5” corresponding to a rating of “extremely serious.” The present study found the Cronbach alpha to be .81. Procedures Under group testing conditions, all participants received information about the purpose of the study, the process, and the duration of their participation in the study from the researcher and signed informed consents. The questionnaires were formatted into a booklet and participants were able to write directly in the booklet to aid administration. Participants were debriefed, at which point any questions regarding the research were answered. Students were told that the goal of the research was to determine parental values and characteristics that are associated with parenting styles and techniques. At debriefing, all parents received a referral packet listing local clinics and therapists.

Although it was hypothesized that ethnicity as a demographic variable would be of less importance than the cultural variables of familism, machismo, and value of children, the possibility of ethnic and sex differences was nonetheless explored. ANOVA’s and Bonferroni post hoc tests were performed as well as correlations between the independent variables and dependent variables. In order to address the study’s first objective, that the independent variables of parents’ previous abuse, endorsement of machismo, familism, and value placed on the child were predictive of the dependent variables of parents’ seriousness ratings of vignettes depicting child maltreatment, use of verbal and physical punishment, use of nurturance and reasoning, hierarchical regressions were performed for each dependent variable.

Hierarchical regression was chosen because it allows for the partitioning of the variance of each variable. It also necessitates thoughtful consideration on the part of the researcher to determine the order of entry of the variables. In order to address the second objective, that the cultural variables of familism, machismo and valuing children would interact with a history of childhood maltreatment, moderating effects were examined. A hierarchical regression was performed to examine the effect of the product term, that is, cultural variable×previous history of abuse (CTQ), on each of the dependent variables. Interaction effects were examined by centering each of the variables of interest around its mean and then multiplying the two centered variables to create an interaction term. Correlations Interrcorrelations between the predictor variables (familism, machismo, valuing children, and childhood abuse) (CTQ) and the dependent variables of nurturance, physical and verbal punishment, and use of reasoning are presented in Table 2. Scores on the CTQ were positively related to all three parenting behaviors, these being use of reasoning, use of verbal punishment, and use of physical punishment. Familism scores were negatively related to the parent’s use of physical punishment [r (148)=−.22, p<.01] and to his or her nurturing behaviors [r (148)=−.17, p<.05]. Machismo scores were also found to be negatively correlated with nurturing behaviors [r (148)=−.30, p<.05]. Table 2. Zero order correlations among study variables

Correlations were also performed between the predictor variables and the ratings of severity of vignettes describing child abuse and neglect as can be seen in Table 3. Scores on the Machismo Scale were found to be negatively correlated with the severity ratings of promoting delinquency in a child [r (148)=−.23, p<.01], emotional mistreatment [r (148)=−.19, p<.05], physical punishment [r (148)=−.24, p<.01], sexual abuse [r (148)=−.24, p<.01], and lack of supervision [r (148)=−.27, p<.01]. Table 3. Correlation matrix of predictor variables with the outcome variables of ratings of definitions

Note: CTQ, Childhood Trauma Questionnaire; MAC, Machismo Scale; FAM, Familism Scale; VAL, Valuing Children Scale; Define, total scale score on definitional vignettes of abuse and neglect; Drugs, parental drug usage; Del, promotion of delinquency of a child; Edu-neg, educational neglect; Emo-mistreat, emotional mistreatment; Fail, failure to provide; Phys-pun, physical punishment; Sa, sexual abuse; Sup, lack of supervision. Drugs, Del, Edu-neg, Emo-mistreat, Fail, Phys-pun, Sa, Sup all refer to categories of vignettes depicting child maltreatment.

Ethnic differences ANOVA results showed that when rating vignettes which described situations where a parent was promoting the delinquency of a child (Delinq), African American parents rated this type of maltreatment to be more serious than did Hispanic parents (Table 4). However, no other ethnic group differences were found in the ratings of vignettes. African American parents scored higher than Hispanic parents on the Nurturance Scale

(NUR). African American parents also scored higher than European American parents did in their actual use of verbal and physical punishment; and Hispanic parents reported using more verbal punishment with their children than did European American parents. Table 4. ANOVA statistics according to ethnic group

Note: CTQ, Childhood Trauma Questionnaire; MAC, Machismo Scale; FAM, Familism Scale; VAL, Valuing Children Scale; NUR, Nurturance Scale; CTS, Conflict Tactics Scale; Reasoning, use of reasoning; Verbal punish, use of verbal punishment; Phys. punish, use of physical punishment; Define, total definitional vignettes of child abuse and neglect; Delinq, promoting delinquency; Drugs, parental drug usage; Edu-neg, educational neglect; Emo-mistreat, emotional mistreatment; Fail, failure to provide; Sa, sexual abuse; Supervise, lack of supervision; Phys-pun, physical punishment. Reasoning, verbal punish and physical punish are categories of the CTS. Delinq, Drugs, Edu-neg, Emo-mistreat, Fail, Sa, Supervise, Phys-pun all refer to categories of Vignettes depicting child maltreatment. The above means are scaled scores.

Sex differences Sex differences were found in the severity ratings of vignettes; mothers tended to evaluate incidents of child maltreatment in the areas of parental drug use, educational neglect, emotional mistreatment, failure to provide, lack of supervision, and use of physical punishment to be more severe maltreatment than did fathers (Table 5). Sex differences were also found on the Machismo and Nurturance Scales where women scored significantly lower than men on the measure of machismo; and women scored significantly higher than men on measures of nurturance. Table 5. ANOVA statistics according to sex

Note: CTQ, Childhood Trauma Questionnaire; MAC, Machismo Scale; FAM, Familism Scale; VAL, Valuing Children Scale; NUR, Nurturance Scale; CTS, Conflict Tactics Scale; Reasoning, use of reasoning; Verbal punish, use of verbal punishment; Phys. punish, use of physical punishment; Define, total definitional vignettes of child abuse and neglect; Delinq, promoting delinquency; Drugs, parental drug usage; Edu-neg, educational neglect; Emo-mistreat, emotional mistreatment; Fail, failure to provide; Sa,

sexual abuse; Supervise, lack of supervision; Phys-pun, physical punishment. The above means are scaled scores.

Predictors of physical punishment

In light of significant sex differences, separate hierarchical multiple regressions were performed for fathers and for mothers (Table 6). Machismo was found to predict the use of physical punishment by fathers, t (4,70)=2.77, p<.05, but not by mothers, while controlling for the cultural variables of familism and valuing children and for the ontogenic variables of ethnicity, sex and history of previous abuse. In addition to machismo, low levels of familism, t (3,71)=−4.83, p<.05, ethnicity (Hispanic), and a childhood history of abuse and neglect were significant independent predictors of the use of physical punishment by fathers. For mothers, ethnicity (African American) and a childhood history of abuse and neglect emerged as significant independent predictors of use of physical punishment. Table 6. Summary of hierarchical regression analysis for variables predicting physical punishment

Predictors of verbal punishment

For mothers, but not fathers, ethnicity, being African American [t (6,68)=2.60, p<.05], or Hispanic [t (6,68)=2.23, p<.05], and having a history of child maltreatment (CTQ) [t (5,69)=2.20, p<.05], was found to be predictive of the use of verbal punishment. For fathers, ethnicity, or being Hispanic [t (6,68)=3.38, p<.05] and valuing children [t (5,69)=2.58, p<.05] predicted the use of verbal punishment. Being Hispanic accounted for 26% of the variance in fathers (Table 7). Table 7. Summary of hierarchical regression analysis for variables predicting verbal punishment

Full-size table (<1K)

Predictors of use of reasoning

More serious childhood trauma (CTQ), t (6,68)=2.70, p<.05, and ethnicity (Hispanic), t (6,68)=2.33, p<.05, were predictive of the use of reasoning by fathers (Table 8). Ethnicity

accounted for a significant 28% of the variance while CTQ scores accounted for another significant 12%. Therefore, being Hispanic and experiencing childhood maltreatment both independently predicted the use of reasoning as a discipline tool for fathers. However, none of the variables were predictive of the use of reasoning by mothers. Table 8. Summary of hierarchical multiple regression analysis for variables predicting use of reasoning

Predictors of nurturance

Being Hispanic predicted the nurturing behaviors of fathers, t (6,68)=−4.34, p<.05, and ethnicity accounted for 30% of the variance (Table 9). That is, Hispanic fathers reported fewer nurturing behaviors than did African American or European American fathers. CTQ scores also predicted nurturance [t (6,68)=3.05, p<.05]; and fathers with higher CTQ scores were more nurturing to their own children than fathers who experienced less maltreatment in childhood. Although none of the variables predicted nurturance in mothers, being Hispanic and having a history of childhood abuse and neglect both made independent contributions to the nurturing behaviors of fathers, controlling for the

variables of sex and ethnicity and for the cultural variables of valuing children, familism, and machismo. Table 9. Hierarchical regression analysis for variables predicting nurturance

Predictors of seriousness ratings

CTQ scores [t (6,68)=2.7, p<.05] and ethnicity or being Hispanic [t (6,68)=−3.10, p<.05] predicted seriousness ratings for fathers and accounted for a significant 10 and 17% of the variance, respectively (Table 10). Being Hispanic was predictive of less serious ratings on vignettes, and having high CTQ scores was predictive of greater seriousness ratings being assigned by fathers to vignettes depicting child maltreatment. None of the predictor variables were significant for the mothers. Table 10. Summary of hierarchical regression analysis for variables predicting seriousness ratings of child maltreatment (Define)

Moderating effects

In order to check for moderating effects, ethnicity was entered first into the regression equation, CTQ scores were entered second, then followed by one of the predictor cultural variables (familism, machismo, or valuing children). The product term was entered last. Results showed that none of the product terms reached significance, indicating that the relationship between previous abuse and current parenting practices was not moderated by the cultural values studied.

The variable of “ethnicity” is complex, but is defined simply as identification with an ethnic group in many studies. The present study sought to go beyond this label to study the influences of the “ingredients” of ethnicity. The “ingredients” measured in the present study were machismo, familism, and valuing children. It was predicted that these components of ethnicity would be associated with the outcome variables of the parents’ use of physical punishment, reasoning, and verbal punishment, of providing nurturance, and of the severity ratings of the abuse and neglect depicted in vignettes that the parent

read. The study also examined whether the cultural variables would operate as moderating variables, buffering the effects of the parent’s childhood abuse and/or neglect. No moderating effects were found however. Familism Regardless of ethnic status, fathers who held familism in low regard were more likely to use physical punishment to discipline their children than fathers who valued familism more highly. The effect of familism was strong, accounting for 26% of the variance. Ingoldsby (1995) recommended that familism replace machismo within Hispanic families to prevent the patriarchal abuse related to machismo. However, it cannot be concluded that the children in the present study, whose fathers were high in familism, are physically punished less often; we can only conclude that these behaviors occur with less frequency from their fathers. In fact, familism, for all parents, was associated with a lower frequency of nurturing behaviors. Although such a finding appears counterintuitive, a logical explanation is possible. Parents who value familism highly may be more likely to live in households which include extended family members who help to care for children. The care that extended family members provide may include both disciplining the child as well as nurturing the child. Therefore, parents who are high in familism may be low in both the use of physical punishment and in the frequency of nurturing behaviors because they are not the only caretaker in the child’s life. A crucial factor, then, in deciding whether familism is a strength for families depends upon who is providing the care in place of, or in addition to, the parents. Many studies have found co-residence by a grandmother to be beneficial ( Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Morgan, 1987) although coresidence by an uncle, cousin, boyfriend/girlfriend or family friend may not be beneficial to the child. Machismo Machismo predicted more use of physical punishment from fathers, but not for mothers controlling for ethnicity. The effect of machismo upon the use of physical punishment was strong, although not as strong as the effect of familism; machismo predicted the use

of physical punishment, while controlling for ethnicity, and accounted for a significant 8% of the variance. Similarly, Deyoung and Zigler (1994) found machismo scores in Guyanese parents to be highly correlated with child physical punishment and scolding and found that Guyanese parents used less nurturance in their child rearing styles. Similar to Deyoung and Zigler, the present study found machismo to be negatively correlated with the use of nurturance in all the Hispanic parents, but not for European American or African American parents. Ingoldsby (1995) has concluded that machismo is responsible for the lack of affection demonstrated by Latin fathers towards their sons. Valuing children For all parents, the value assigned to children was related to the seriousness ratings abuse and neglect depicted in the vignettes. Correlations found that valuing children more was associated with lower tolerance for mistreating behaviors. This was especially true for vignettes depicting parental drug use, emotional mistreatment, physical abuse, and the sexual abuse of a child. However, hierarchical regressions revealed that fathers who valued children more, also used more verbal punishment than fathers who valued children less. This finding does not coincide with the other results presented here and it is difficult to know how to interpret it. It may be possible that fathers who value children more perceive verbal punishment as innocuous, and therefore prefer it as a discipline method over physical punishment. We do not know how fathers perceived verbal punishment since the present study did not examine this factor. However, we do know that fathers perceive emotional mistreatment of a child to be less serious than mothers do, since fathers reported a significantly greater tolerance for a child’s emotional mistreatment when assigning ratings to vignettes depicting abuse and neglect. Intergenerational transmission of abuse The present study contributes to our understanding of intergenerational transmission of child abuse and neglect. It is widely believed that the parent’s history of childhood abuse and/or neglect is an important predictor of less optimal parenting behaviors by him or her (Baumrind, 1995). The present results showed that here, a history of childhood abuse

and/or neglect was predictive of the mother’s use of physical and verbal punishment. However, it is important to note that although high CTQ scores predicted the use of physical punishment in mothers, they did not predict child maltreatment by the mothers. Careful examination of the maternal responses revealed that although items such as “slapped or spanked the child,” which Straus (1990) calls minor violence, were reported, behaviors such as “beat up the child,” “kicked, bit, or hit the child with fist,” or severe violence ( Straus, 1990), were not reported. Unlike mothers, fathers who reported a history of abuse and neglect in their own childhood were less likely to use physical punishment with their children. It is also important to note that for fathers, previous abuse and/or neglect predicted greater use of reasoning and greater use of nurturing. The data suggests that the intergenerational transmission of abuse may hold for mothers, but not for fathers. Perhaps of issue here is the type of abuse or neglect that the parents suffered, as well as the severity and duration of the maltreatment. It may also be that fathers spend less time with their children than mothers do, and therefore are less likely to use physical punishment than mothers. Ethnic differences and similarities Contrary to the findings of Giovannoni and Becerra (1979), the present study did not find ethnic differences in seriousness ratings of child abuse and neglect, with the exception of the category of promoting delinquency. It was found that African American parents rated these vignettes as more serious than did Hispanic parents; Hispanic and European American parents did not differ significantly from one another, and African American and European American parents did not differ significantly from one another. In Giovannoni and Becerra’s sample, African American and Hispanic parents did not differ from one another, although European American parents differed significantly from Hispanic and African American parents and were more tolerant of parental behaviors depicting abuse and neglect. If ethnic groups do not differ in how child abuse and neglect is defined, then increased rates, by people of color, of child abuse and neglect reports made to Child Protection Services, cannot be attributed to society’s lack of a culturally specific definition of child maltreatment, as proposed by Zayas (1992). Rather, the

overrepresentation of children of color in child welfare agencies may have more to do with biases, which exist within professionals mandated to report child maltreatment and a lack of a distinction between physical punishment and abuse. However, ethnic groups did differ in parental nurturing behaviors. African American parents were significantly more nurturing than Hispanic parents, although African American parents and European American parents did not differ. African American parents used more physical discipline than Hispanic and European American parents. Ethnic differences also varied by gender, with African American mothers, not fathers, using more physical and verbal punishment than any other mothers in the sample. These findings supported previous research concluding that African American parents tend to be authoritarian, a parenting style which promotes control with use of physical discipline (Baumrind, 1995; Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Steinberg, 1996). A recent study (Deater-Deckard, Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1996) found that “harsh” physical discipline was more prevalent among African American families than in European families, yet it did not cause the aggressive, externalizing behaviors in African American children as it did in the European American children. The authors suggested that perhaps African American children do not perceive their parent’s disciplinary behavior as lacking in warmth, as do the European American children; and therefore, the African American children do not experience the deleterious effects of the physical punishment. Interestingly, the Deater-Deckard et al. (1996) research and other similar research ( Lamborn et al., 1996) did not collect data on frequency of nurturing behaviors in the African American home, although frequency of spanking, verbal demands and other controlling type discipline was measured. Indeed, the present study indicates that African American parents, although high in physical discipline, are also high in nurturing behaviors. Therefore, it may not be the child’s perception of the parent’s behavior that prevents the deleterious effects of physical punishment, but it is the actual pairing of nurturance and physical punishment that is clearly expressed in African American families that protects the child from its negative consequences. Similarly, Maton, Hrabowski, and Greif (1998), in a longitudinal study of African American males, found that the combined factors of parental-determined academic engagement, strict discipline,

and nurturance counteracted the negative influences that African American boys encountered in school, with peers and in society, and lead to their personal success. Although European American parents used less physical punishment than African American parents, and less verbal punishment than Hispanic parents, European American parents were not any less tolerant of child abuse and neglect behaviors than were African American and Hispanic parents. Rather, all parents, regardless of ethnicity, similarly rated certain parental behaviors as more serious. Therefore, we can conclude that differences in parental behaviors of disciplining their children may not lead to the abuse of their child since all parents, regardless of ethnicity, are knowledgeable regarding what behaviors constitute abusive parenting. Rather, differences in parental behaviors of disciplining, such as use of physical punishment, are as individualistic as parents themselves and cannot be considered abusive or benign without close examination of the entire family system, the child’s functioning, and other parental behaviors, such as use of reasoning and nurturing behaviors which may serve to buffer the possible harmful effects of physical punishment. Limitations The limitations of the present study can be found in the selection of the sample. Although the sample consisted of non-traditional college students who were parents, they were nonetheless college students. As predominately full time workers (83%), the sample may have represented parents who wished to better their lives through education. Therefore, the study may be threatened by selection. Another limitation includes the possibility that variables not measured in the present study, such as acculturation, socioeconomic and/or educational levels, affected the results. Implications The present research adds to our understanding of diverse parenting styles, of definitions of child abuse and neglect, and of ethnicity. The findings indicated that both ethnicity and gender are complex factors, which include social roles, gender roles, and norms, all of which may exert direct influence upon parenting styles and definitions of child

maltreatment. The present study went beyond the label of the parents’ ethnic identity to study the influences of the attitudes and beliefs that may be embedded within the ethnic group’s identity. Future research should continue to discover the attitudinal and behavioral components, the “ingredients” of ethnicity. The three cultural constructs studied here may be an adequate start, but there is obviously more to these cultures than the three components studied. For each dependent variable, ethnicity or ethnicity and gender emerged as significant variables, even controlling for machismo, familism, and degrees of valuing children. Therefore, there must be other constructs which account for the remaining variance to which ethnicity contributed. Future research should also address the factors that may buffer the effects of previous abuse and/or neglect for fathers, and attempt to discover what factors can buffer the effect of childhood maltreatment for mothers.

The author is very grateful to Reesa M. Vaughter, for her general support and for her insightful comments on previous drafts of this paper.

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