Single mothers in their communities: The mediating role of parenting stress and depression between social cohesion, social control and child maltreatment

Sheila Barnhart, Kathryn Maguire-Jack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Child maltreatment remains a significant problem in the United States. Single mothers are at elevated risk for maltreatment due to financial limitations and lower levels of available supports. The current study investigates whether neigborhood social cohesion and informal social control were associated with child maltreatment in a sample of single mothers, and further examines the direct and indirect pathways through which these associations occur. The current study uses an analytic sample of 1,158 mothers who participated in the third and fourth wave Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (FFCW) study to estimate the direct associations between social cohesion, informal social control, and child maltreatment, as well as two potential mediators, maternal depression and parenting stress. Descriptive statistics reveal that participants were economically disadvantaged, approximately 57% possessed at least a high school diploma or GED, and the majority of participants were African American, Non-Hispanic (64.7%), followed by Hispanic (19.9%) and White, non-Hispanic (12.8%). The structural equation models did not show significant associations between informal social control and either physical abuse or neglect. Social cohesion, on the other hand, was indirectly related to physical abuse and neglect. Maternal depression mediated the relationship between social cohesion and maltreatment. While parenting stress did not explain the relationship between social cohesion and child maltreatment, parenting stress was individually associated with both physical abuse and neglect. The findings suggest that maternal depression may be an important pathway through which social cohesion is affects child abuse and neglect for single, non-cohabitating mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Collective efficacy
  • Neighborhoods
  • Single mothers
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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