The Mediational Role of Maternal Functioning

As compared to school-age children, the maternal role may be more salient during the preschool years because of fewer competing socialization influences, e.g. teachers and peers; therefore we focused on the role of maternal functioning as a crucial mediator in the linkage between exposure to community violence and child problems (Linares, Heeren, Bronfman, Zuckerman, Augustyn, & Tronick, 2001). There is substantial evidence from the developmental and family relations literature that mothers' own histories of interpersonal victimization (e.g., community or intra-family violence) are associated with global, and stress-specific symptoms of psychological distress. For example, victimized women (mothers) suffer from poor physical health (Koss, Woodruff, & Koss, 1990), increased distress, and show a higher risk for PTSD symptoms, as compared with nonvictimized women (Breslau, Glenn, Davis, Andreski, & Peterson, 1991; North, Smith, & Spitz-Nagel, 1994; Zlotnick, Warshaw, Shea, & Keller, 1997). We examined the mediational role of maternal functioning as a psychosocial mechanism by which community violence might 'enter' the child's world during the preschool years (see Figure 22.1). Using a multivariate methodology (structural equation modeling), we showed that maternal distress mediated, to a large extent, the association between exposure to community violence and behavior problems. That is, for the preschool child, the mother's own psychological distress added a considerable extra risk to her own child's distress.

In a series of structural equation modeling model (see Figure 22.2), we show a nonsignificant direct effect of community violence on preschool problems (standardized path coefficient = .10 p NS) when maternal distress is entered into the model. In the final model, exposure to community violence (standardized path coefficient = .30 p < .006) and exposure to family violence (standardized path coefficient = .39 p < .005) impact directly on maternal distress, and in turn, maternal distress impact on preschool problems (standardized path coefficient =.66 p < .001).

The Polarity Path

The Polarity Path

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