Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard W. Cross


Behavior problems and adaptive behavior were evaluated in a sample of 30 children, mean age 9.5 years, whose mothers had been temporarily residing in a shelter or had been receiving shelter services during the 6 1/2 months of data collection. Using a sequential sampling design, the mother of every child exposed to family violence, was selected. Fifteen mothers were interviewed regarding the nature of the violence that their children had witnessed and/or experienced (including type, frequency, duration, and recency of the violence) as well as the nature of their children's adaptive behavior (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales). Mothers also rated their children's behavior on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist and completed a measure of maternal depression (Beck Depression Inventory). The results of the present study indicate a clinically significant prevalence of both behavior problems and diminished adaptive functioning as reported by the mothers. More than one third of the children in our study (36.67%) exhibited behavior problems that fell within the clinical range (T ≥ 65). In addition, 60% of the children's adaptive behavior scores fell into the "moderately low" to "low" category (X < 85); and, across the areas of communication, daily living skills, and socialization, the children in our sample were found to be performing an average 2.23 years below the level expected for their chronological age. Pearson product-moment correlations were computed between each of the-assessed dimensions of both maternal and child functioning to delineate the relationship between the child functioning and the child's witnessing or experiencing of parental violence. A significant, negative association between the adaptive behavior composite and externalizing behavior scores was found, revealing that as adaptive behavior diminishes, externalizing behaviors increase. Adaptive behavior, in contrast, was not found to be significantly related to internalizing behaviors; however, maternal depression was significantly related to the internalizing behavior exhibited by the child. Multiple regression analysis revealed that 70% of the variance in internalizing behavior problems exhibited by the child is accounted for by maternal depression (BDI) and adaptive behavior, with maternal depression being the major predictor. Thus, in accordance with theoretical predictions, the impact upon the child of witnessing and/or experiencing family violence may be partially mediated by factors associated with maternal depression. Implications of these findings are discussed.