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Warmth and reciprocity with mothers, and young children's resilience to exposure to community violence in Colombia: findings from the La Sabana Parent–Child Study

Obando, Diana, Wright, Nicola ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3285-2051 and Hill, Jonathan (2022) Warmth and reciprocity with mothers, and young children's resilience to exposure to community violence in Colombia: findings from the La Sabana Parent–Child Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. ISSN 0021-9630

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Abstract

Background: Exposure to community violence is common worldwide and is associated with emotional and behavioural problems in children. Little is known about sources of resilience. Building on our previous work on the contribution of callous-unemotional (CU) traits to child aggression in Colombia, we examined whether positive parenting is protective for children whose families are exposed to community violence. Methods: Families were recruited from three demographically contrasting regions of Colombia. The sample comprised 235 children aged 3.5 years and their mothers, of whom 220 (93%) were followed up at age 5.0 years. Positive parenting was assessed as the average of maternal warmth and reciprocity, and as praise, and negative parenting as the average of negative affect and conflict seen in video recordings of standardized procedures. CU traits and oppositional defiant disorder were assessed by maternal report at ages 3.5 and 5.0 years, and mothers reported exposure to community violence over the 18 months between assessments. A range of potential confounds was included in adjusted analyses. Results: In the families who were exposed to community violence, but not in the unexposed, maternal warmth and reciprocity were associated prospectively with lower CU traits (interaction, p = .007). In the exposed group maternal warmth and reciprocity explained 10% of the variance (β = −.34, p = .001). Maternal praise was not associated with CU traits. Maternal negative parenting predicted higher CU traits as the main effect but not in interaction with community violence exposure. Conclusions: Maternal warmth and reciprocity with young children may promote resilience in the face of community violence. Programmes to enhance these protective processes may be needed especially where prospects for reducing community violence are limited. The centrality of parents for these children highlights the plight of those exposed to community violence, and also either separated from parents or orphaned.

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