Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Peggy S. Keller


The current study examined the relation between parental empathy, parenting aggression and child maladjustment in a group of parents who perpetrated child abuse and neglect. Twenty parents who were court mandated to receive a parenting intervention program at the Nest Center for Women, Children, and Families participated in this research study. Information about parental dispositional empathy, parent-child specific empathy, parenting aggression and child internalizing and externalizing symptoms were collected through an interview with the parents. Parents in this study reported high levels of dispositional empathy, but exhibited low to moderate levels of empathy in a parent-child relationship rated by coders. Parents also reported low levels of parenting aggression across psychological aggression, corporal punishment and psychological control. Examining the relation between parental empathy and aggressive parenting revealed that parent-child specific empathy, but not dispositional empathy, was negatively associated with parental psychological control. In a subsample of older children in middle childhood and adolescence, parental affective dispositional empathy was negatively associated with child externalizing symptoms. The current study links parental empathy to parental psychological control and emphasizes the importance of examining empathy in a specific relationship in addition to dispositional empathy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)