The Role of Maternal Acceptance in the Relation Between Community Violence Exposure and Child Functioning

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Children in the United States are exposed to considerable community violence that has been linked to child functioning. However, not all those exposed, experience negative outcomes. Recent research has focused on factors that "buffer" or protect children from negative consequences of violence exposure. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the potential buffering or moderating role of maternal acceptance in the relationship between community violence exposure and internalizing and externalizing problems. Subjects were 268 urban African American first graders. Community violence exposure was significantly related to symptoms of post-traumatic stress, but did not correlate with either internalizing or externalizing problems for all children, after control for demographics, maternal mental health, and general life stress. However, children's perceptions of maternal acceptance moderated the relationship between violence exposure and internalizing and externalizing problems which included being withdrawn, anxious-depressed, and demonstrating delinquent behavior. Children with the lowest levels of self-reported maternal acceptance were most impacted by community violence. In this sample of urban first graders, low levels of maternal acceptance placed children at greater risk for adverse outcomes associated with community violence exposure compared to moderate and high levels of maternal acceptance.