Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Milner, Joel S.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Child abuse--United States--Psychological aspects; Abusive mothers--United States--Psychological aspects; Locus of control--United States; Schema-focused cognitive therapy--United States


The present dissertation compared the control expectancies, desire for control (DC), and associated negative affect of mothers who were classified to be at high-risk for child physical abuse (CPA) and comparison mothers. Locus of control (LOC) orientation and DC in general life and parenting situations were conceptualized as parts of a cognitive schema that differed between high-risk and comparison mothers. It was hypothesized that high-risk mothers would be significantly more likely to expect the outcomes of general life and parenting events to be explained by forces that are outside of their control (e.g., luck, powerful others, etc.). Furthermore, it was hypothesized that high-risk mothers, despite expecting significantly more external forces to control events in their lives, would report having a significantly higher DC than comparison mothers. It was expected that LOC and DC variables would interact to predict CPA potential. Finally, it was expected that significant results would become nonsignificant once levels of depression and anxiety were statistically controlled. From a convenience sample of 96 mothers, 18 mothers who were classified as being high-risk for CPA and 18 demographically matched comparison mothers were selected. Due to a small participant to variable ratio, scales were combined through a principle components analysis, resulting in four dependent variables: negative affect, general external LOC, DC, and child control (i.e., the extent to which participants viewed outcomes in parenting situations to be controlled by children). These variables were used to test the study's hypotheses through ANOVAs. Results suggested that high-risk mothers reported a significantly more external LOC orientation in general life and parenting situations than comparison mothers. No significant differences with regard to DC and no significant interactions were found. Statistically controlling for levels of negative affect did not appear to impact the significant differences between high-risk and comparison mothers. Taken together, the results suggested that high-risk mothers were significantly more likely than comparison mothers to expect that forces that are outside themselves control the outcomes of daily life and parenting events. Furthermore, statistically controlling for differences in negative affect between the two groups did not appear to significantly impact the differences in LOC orientation.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [114]-131)


vi, 200 pages




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