Child compliance/noncompliance and maternal contributors to internalization in maltreating and nonmaltreating dyads

Amy L. Koenig, Dante Cicchetti, Fred A. Rogosch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Moral development in maltreated and nonmaltreated children was examined by coding child compliance and noncompliance behaviors in a mother-child interaction during a cleanup situation that followed a semistructured free play. Features of child compliance/noncompliance involve a shift from reliance on external controls to internal mechanisms, thereby reflecting child internalization of the maternal agenda. Differences in maltreating versus comparison mothers' use of control strategies (power-assertive and inductive techniques) and their relations to child internalization were examined. Eighty-nine mother-child dyads participated; approximately half of the children (n = 46) had documented histories of maltreatment and the remaining children (n = 43) were nonmaltreated, demographically similar comparison children. Maltreated children were divided into two subgroups: physically abused and neglected. Compared with nonmaltreated children, abused children were found to exhibit less internalization, whereas neglected children displayed significantly more negative affect. No differences were found between groups for the maternal control strategies. However, maltreated and nonmaltreated groups differed in the maternal variables that predicted child internalization. A lower level of maternal negative affect was linked to child internalization in maltreated children, whereas a lower level of maternal joy predicted internalization for the comparison children. The findings suggest that maltreated children exhibit both behavioral and affective differences in their moral development, with differential effects based on the type of maltreatment. The clinical implications for maltreated children's self and moral development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1032
Number of pages15
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


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