Leah E. Behl

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Milner, Joel S.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Child abuse--Prevention; Stress (Psychology); Family assessment


Models of child physical abuse (CPA) suggest that multiple factors such as a belief in the value of corporal punishment, stress, and high levels of social support may decrease the likelihood of CPA. Research on the interrelationship between these factors is needed. The current study was designed to investigate whether belief in corporal punishment, stress, and social support interact to produce differences in CPA potential. One hundred and eighty-two mothers volunteered and participated in the current study. Participants completed five paper-and-pencil questionnaires. The final data set contained 110 participants. After forcing age into regression analyses, higher levels of stress and belief in corporal punishment and lower levels of social support individually were associated with higher CAP abuse scores. Within the overall regression, stress, social support, and stress by belief in corporal punishment accounted for significant unique amounts of variance on the CAP abuse scores. A post hoc examination of the data indicated that the low-stress and low-belief in corporal punishment group had significantly lower CAP abuse scores compared to both the high-stress/high-corporal punishment and the high-stress/low-corporal punishment groups. Post hoc discriminant function analysis with all of the variables (stress, social support, belief in the value of corporal punishment, Stress x Social Support, Stress x Belief in Corporal Punishment, and Stress x Belief in Corporal Punishment x Social Support) found one significant discriminant function consisting of four variables, age, stress, stress by belief in corporal punishment, and stress by belief in corporal punishment by social support, which correctly classified 80.9% of the cases. The results of the study support theories that highlight the importance of stress in the prediction of CPA risk. In addition, the current study indicated that preexisting cognitive schemata when combined with high levels of stress also contributes to CPA risk. Further support is offered for social support's role in the reduction of the likelihood of CPA. The discriminative function analysis suggested that there is a three-way interaction between stress, belief in the value of corporal punishment, and social support that is important in understanding and predicting CPA potential.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [88]-98)


viii, 149 pages




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