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Women's Hostile Attributions Up Odds of Child Maltreatment

Women's beliefs in pregnancy tied to infant maltreatment, harsh parenting of toddlers

WEDNESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women's hostile attributions about infants correlate with an increased risk of early child maltreatment and harsh parenting, according to a study published online April 15 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Lisa J. Berlin, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a prospective longitudinal study in a community-based sample of 499 pregnant women to examine pregnant women's hostile attributions about infants as a risk factor for early child maltreatment and harsh parenting.

The researchers observed an increased likelihood of child maltreatment by the age of 26 months for children whose mothers had hostile attributions (adjusted odds ratio, 1.26). In addition, women who made more hostile attributions during pregnancy exhibited harsher parenting behaviors toward their toddlers. These associations persisted after adjustment for seven psychosocial covariates.

"A pregnant woman's hostile attributions about infant's intentions signal risk for maltreatment and harsh parenting of her child during the first years of life," the authors write. "Practitioners' attention to women's hostile attributions may help identify those in need of immediate practitioner input and/or referral to parenting services."

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