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01-07-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 7/2015

Journal of Child and Family Studies 7/2015

Developmental Task Attainment and Child Abuse Potential in At-risk Adolescent Mothers

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 7/2015
Bramilee Dhayanandhan, Yvonne Bohr, Jennifer Connolly


Children of adolescent mothers born into high-poverty communities are at greater than average risk of being maltreated at the hands of their caregiver. One possible explanatory variable that is not well understood is the role of adolescent developmental task attainment in young mothers’ adaptation to parenting. Adolescent mothers face the unique dual challenge of undertaking the developmental tasks of adolescence while simultaneously tending to the development of their children. These competing needs, compounded by sociocontextual risk factors such as poverty, may hinder their ability to optimally care for their young children. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of adolescent developmental task attainment in mitigating child abuse potential in a sample of high-risk teenage mothers. Fifty adolescent mothers completed a series of questionnaires to assess child abuse potential and achievement of stage-salient tasks associated with adolescence. Results indicated that at the bivariate level, developmental task attainment was associated with child abuse potential. In a significant regression model, lack of adolescent developmental task attainment predicted child abuse potential among adolescent mothers. The overall model explained 27.8 % of the variance in abuse risk. This is the first study, to our knowledge, to demonstrate the protective role of adolescent developmental task attainment in high-risk adolescent mothers’ child abuse potential. The findings from this study can be useful for the development or improvement of interventions and tools to prevent child abuse and neglect.

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