Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1068–1076 | Cite as

Parents’ Marital Status and Child Physical Abuse Potential: The Mediation of Depression Symptoms

Original Paper


Informed by a social interactional framework of stress and parenting, the aim of this study was to examine the mediating effect of depression symptoms on the association between parents’ marital status (married and divorced parents) and child physical abuse potential, in a Portuguese community sample. It was hypothesized that the possible observed differences between divorced and married parents in the child physical abuse potential would be explained by their depression symptoms. Parents (N = 892) were assessed in their marital status, severity of depression symptoms and child physical abuse potential. Results showed that, when compared with married parents, divorced parents had higher child physical abuse potential. However, parents’ depression symptomatology was found as a mediator of the effect of marital status differences on child physical abuse potential. The influence of the status of divorced parents on the increase of child physical abuse potential was explained by the increase of the parents’ depression symptoms. This finding suggested that parents’ divorced status had no longer an effect on child physical abuse potential when parents’ depression symptomatology was tested as a mediator variable. The present mediation model explained 47 % of the variability in the child physical abuse potential score. Practical implications of these findings for prevention and psychological intervention are also discussed.


Child physical abuse potential Child physical abuse Marital status Divorce Depression symptoms Mediation 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology, Education & SportsLusófona University of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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