Raising a Hand Against Young African American Children: The Effects on Mental Health Trajectories and Consideration of Moderating Cultural Factors
Abstract: Research examining the effect of early childhood physical
discipline, which is associated with increased risk for physical maltreatment, on African
American children's mental health has mixed findings. Investigations of these relations
rarely considered the cultural context in which African American physical discipline use is
situated. This dissertation, using theoretical perspectives ... read moreproposed by García Coll et al.
(1996), Spencer et. al. (1995) and Rogoff (2003), considered African American cultural
processes and experiences when investigating early childhood physical discipline, in
comparison to early childhood physical maltreatment, and its impact on the development of
internalizing symptoms across middle childhood and adolescence. I investigated 1) the
associations between demographic and contextual factors, and early childhood physical
discipline and physical child maltreatment among African American families; 2) the effect
of physical discipline on internalizing symptoms across middle childhood and adolescence in
comparison to physical maltreatment; and 3) parental warmth, ethnic-racial socialization,
and racial discrimination as moderators of relations between physical discipline and abuse,
and internalizing symptoms. Using data from 310 young African American children and their
parents, I conducted latent class analyses to define discipline and maltreatment, and the
Bolck, Croon, and Hagenaars method to examine associations with demographic and contextual
factors. Multiple linear and probit regressions were used to examine relations between
physical discipline and maltreatment latent classes, and anxiety, depression and PTSD
symptoms. These analyses were also used to examine the moderating effects of parental
warmth, ethnic-racial socialization, and racial discrimination on relations between
discipline classes, maltreatment classes, and internalizing symptoms. This dissertation
identified five physical discipline and three physical maltreatment latent classes.
Physical discipline and physical maltreatment classes shared some associations with
demographic and contextual predictors but also had differing associations as well. Weekly
overall physical discipline that included spanking as well as physical maltreatment defined
by bruises and authority involvement predicted anxiety and depressive symptoms among
African American children. Parental warmth moderated the relations between maltreatment and
anxiety symptoms during middle childhood. Further examination of the impact of
ethnic-racial socialization and racial discrimination is needed. Findings, limitations and
policy, practice, and research implications are discussed.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Development.
Advisor: Ellen Pinderhughes.
Committee: Francine Jacobs, Sara Johnson, Francine Sherman, and Renee Boynton-Jarrett.
Keyword: Developmental psychology.read less