Physical abuse of children by stepfathers in Colombia

Gavin Nobes, Georgia Panagiotaki, Catia Malvaso, Joanne Klevens

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Abstract

Evolutionary psychologists claim that stepparents perpetrate substantiallymore child physical abuse than genetic parents, and that they do sobecause they are less invested in genetically unrelated children. Theobjective of this study was to examine these claims by investigatingwhether, and why, fathers in a Colombian sample physically abused theirstepchildren more than their genetic children. Fathers (N = 86) and theirpartners living in Bogotá were interviewed by Klevens et al. Half of thefathers had been reported to authorities for child physical abuse, theother half were matched controls. Secondary analysis was conducted ofKlevens et al.’s data. Hypotheses from the evolutionary and ecologicalaccounts of child maltreatment were tested using logistic and ordinalregression. Both the prevalence and the frequency of physical abuse by stepfathers were considerably greater than those of genetic fathers.Several indicators of adversity—including parental youth and experienceof abuse, fathers’ chronic stress, and mothers’ poor communicationwith the child—were associated with both abuse and stepparenthood.Models including these variables indicated that they accounted for muchof the stepfathers’ higher rates of abuse. Consistent with the ecological account, much of the stepfathers’ greater prevalence and frequency ofabuse in this sample is likely to have resulted from confounding variables,rather than from the step relationship per se.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Early online date13 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Stepfathers; Child Physical Abuse; Evolutionary Psychology; Stressors; Intergenerational Transmission

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