Affective, organizational, and relational characteristics of maltreating families: A systems perspective

Paul W. Howes, Dante Cicchetti, Sheree L. Toth, Fred A. Rogosch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


In-home structured interactions of 42 maltreating families (neglect: n = 12; physical abuse: n = 19; sexual abuse: n = 11) and 23 low-income comparison families with preschool-aged children were examined to determine whether maltreating and nonmaltreating families could be distinguished by system-level processes. Coding from videotapes of family interactions yielded ratings for affective, organizational, and relational features of each family unit. Results from family coding demonstrated that sexually abusive families had significantly more difficulties regulating anger, evidenced more chaos and less role clarity, and relied less on adaptive-flexible relationship strategies than nonmaltreating families. The importance of family climate and structure, above and beyond individual maltreatment acts, are highlighted. Treatment and social policy implications and directions for future research in the family study of child maltreatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-110
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes


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