Background: Although recent evidence implies linkages among depression or depressive symptoms, self-esteem, history of childhood abuse, and parenting attitudes, the evidence does not clearly elucidate the relationships among these variables.
Objectives: To investigate the relationships among maternal psychosocial factors (history of childhood abuse, everyday stressors, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms) and parenting attitudes of low-income, single mothers who have young children.
Methods: Secondary analyses of data from in-home interviews with 206 low-income, single mothers from a southeastern United States urban area were conducted. A variety of scales, including the Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI), were used to measure maternal psychosocial factors.
Results: Using the AAPI, a Modified Parenting Attitudes Measure (MPAM), and subscales, a three-stage regression procedure was used to test the model. For stages 1 and 2, everyday stressors were the strongest predictor of self-esteem. Childhood sexual abuse, everyday stressors, low self-esteem, and control variables accounted for 58% of variance in depressive symptoms. In the third stage for the AAPI, only control variables were retained except in the Lack of Empathy subscale, where depressive symptoms and control variables accounted for 16% of the variance. The third stage for the MPAM yielded, by subscale: Only control variables predicted Corporal Punishment Beliefs; depressive symptoms were the strongest predictor for the total MPAM (19% of variance) and of the Inappropriate Emotional Expectations subscale (17%); and childhood physical abuse was the only predictor of Role Reversal.
Conclusions: Depressive symptoms mediated the effects of childhood abuse, everyday stressors, and self-esteem and provided the linkage between these variables and at-risk parenting attitudes. Self-esteem decreased as everyday stressors increased but did not directly affect parenting attitudes. A relationship was not found between childhood abuse and low self-esteem. This study highlights the complexity of parenting and the need to identify other factors of at-risk parenting not accounted for in this study.