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Abstract

The primary purposes of this pilot study were to identify maternal psychosocial correlates of unrealistic expectations of children and of child abuse potential, and to investigate the relationships of these factors with child behavior. A cross-sectional, two-group design was used. One group consisted of 20 low-income mothers whose preschool children were referred to a family care center for suspected abuse or neglect. A comparison group was made up of 20 low-income mothers whose children attended a university-based pediatric clinic and who were not referred for abuse or neglect. Data were collected during structured in-home interviews with the mothers. Measures of parental bonding, maternal depressive symptoms, unrealistic expectations of children, child abuse potential, and child behavior were obtained. Preschool teachers of the children also rated the children's behavior. Mothers with high depressive symptoms reported more unrealistic expectations of children and had greater child abuse potential scores than those with fewer symptoms. The more child behavior problems mothers reported, the greater their unrealistic expectations of the children and the higher their score for child abuse potential. Maternal depressive symptoms were not directly related to child behavior. Teacher reports of child behavior were moderately correlated with maternal reports, but no study variable was associated with teacher reports.