Violence Exposure and the Association Between Young African American Mothers' Discipline and Child Problem Behavior

Stephanie J. Mitchell, Amy Lewin, Ivor B. Horn, Andrew Rasmussen, Kathy Sanders-Phillips, Dawn Valentine, Jill G Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Children of adolescent mothers are at increased risk of violence exposure and behavior problems, which have been linked to mothers' disciplinary practices. This study examines how the effect of young African American mothers' discipline on their preschool-age children's externalizing and internalizing behavior varies by mother and child violence exposure. Methods: A sample of 230 African American mothers who gave birth as adolescents and their 3- to 6-year-old children were recruited from community-based day care and primary health care sites in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. In-person interviews were conducted by trained research assistants who administered standard survey instruments. Results: Hierarchical regression models revealed an interaction effect such that adolescent mothers' harsh disciplinary practices, specifically physical discipline strategies, were positively associated with young children's internalizing and externalizing behavior in the context of high or moderate, but not low, maternal violence exposure. Conclusions: Compared with less violence-exposed mothers, the harsh disciplinary practices of young African American mothers who have been exposed to high levels of violence are more strongly associated with their children's problem behavior. Practitioners should screen mothers for violence exposure in order to address potential issues of discipline and behavior problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent mothers
  • child behavior
  • harsh discipline
  • violence exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Violence Exposure and the Association Between Young African American Mothers' Discipline and Child Problem Behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this