Author Affiliations: Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.
Cognitive models of aggression propose that when an individual attributes hostile intent to another person's behavior, these attributions increase the likelihood of aggression toward that person. This proposition has been supported by a large body of literature.1 Similar speculations are found in cognitive behavioral models of child physical abuse.2,3 Specifically, these models propose that, when parents make attributions of hostile intent with respect to their children's behavior, they are more likely to use harsh parenting practices and are at increased risk for physically abusing their children. As expected, studies4-6 have found that, in the general population, parents' child-related attributions of hostile intent are associated with harsh discipline practices. Furthermore, research has found that these high-risk parents and physically abusive parents, relative to comparison parents, make more attributions of hostile intent with respect to children's behavior.7-9
Milner JS, Crouch JL. Assessment of Maternal Attributions of Infant's Hostile Intent and Its Use in Child Maltreatment Prevention/Intervention Efforts. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(6):588–589. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1467
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