The Role of Parental Distress in Moderating the Influence of Child Neglect on Maladjustment

Sara R. Berzenski, David S. Bennett, Victoria A. Marini, Margaret Wolan Sullivan, Michael Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite pervasive evidence of the harmful impact of neglect on children’s adjustment, individual differences in adaptation persist. This study examines parental distress as a contextual factor that may moderate the relation between neglect and child adjustment, while considering the specificity of the relation between neglect and internalizing versus externalizing problems. In a sample of 66 children (33 with a documented child protective services history of neglect prior to age six), neglect predicted internalizing, and to a lesser extent externalizing, problems as rated by teachers at age seven. Parental distress moderated the relation between neglect and internalizing, but not externalizing, problems. Specifically, higher levels of neglect predicted more internalizing problems only among children of distressed parents. These findings indicate that parent-level variables are important to consider in evaluating the consequences of neglect, and point to the importance of considering contextual factors when identifying those children most at risk following neglect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1336
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 7 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • Child neglect
  • Internalizing problems
  • Parental depression
  • Parental distress
  • Parenting stress


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