Parental dissatisfaction with children appears to be associated with child maltreatment. However, little is known regarding the specific domains of parental dissatisfaction that may increase child maltreatment potential, particularly in perpetrators of child maltreatment where substance abuse is present. In this study, responses to the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) and a scale measuring parental satisfaction in 11 domains were examined in a sample of 82 mothers who were referred for treatment of substance abuse and child neglect by the local child protective service agency. Results indicated that mothers were relatively most satisfied with their children overall, and least satisfied in domains that were relevant to discipline (i.e., following house rules, compliance, reaction to redirection and punishment, completion of chores). Five of the 11 areas of parental satisfaction that were assessed evidenced negative correlations with child abuse potential, indicating that as satisfaction increased, abuse potential decreased. However, when correlation analyses excluded participants with elevated CAPI Lie scale scores (a measure of social desirability), only overall happiness demonstrated a significant negative correlation with child abuse potential. These results suggest that while associations are present among measures of parental satisfaction and child abuse potential, these associations are moderated to some extent by social desirability, which may help explain some of the inconsistencies reported in prior studies of parental satisfaction and child maltreatment potential.
Keywords: Parent satisfaction, Child abuse and neglect, Drug abuse, Social desirability