Maternal Intelligence, Social Information Processing, and Neglect

  • Azar, Sandra T. (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Neglect affects large numbers of children each year and its negative health, social, emotional and academic consequences to children are well documented. Despite this, there has been little theoretical or empirical work identifying its causes. Social information processing (SIP) theory argues that disturbances in parents'cognitive system (knowledge structures, executive functioning, and appraisal processes) play a role in parenting risk and explain neglect's occurrence. To date, this model has shown value in understanding abuse, but has not been well examined in neglect. It may have particular relevance to neglect given there is an association between neglect and parental intellectual limitations. The goal of the proposed project is to extend its validity to child neglect and to explore SIP as a mediator between IQ and neglect. It will examine a sample of low SES mothers, half of whom are perpetrators of neglect and half of whom have no child protection history and who also vary in level of intellectual limitations. Two goals will be pursued: (1)To extend the validation of the social information processing (SIP) Model with Child Protective Services (CPS) identified neglectful mothers and with a sub-group of intellectually limited mothers who are at particular risk for neglect (with a preliminary replication of this goal using direct measures of neglect further validating the SIP model's utility for explaining neglect);and (2) To examine whether the SIP problems which neglectful parents exhibit extend beyond parenting into other interpersonal and non-interpersonal domains, further increasing child risk (i.e., SIP in adult-adult relationships;more general EF such as cognitive flexibility). The link of SIP problems to neglect will be examined controlling for other already identified intrapersonal and contextual correlates. If SIP problems are identified as linked to neglect, this will be useful for developing (1) specific targets in interventions for neglectful parents (especially ones with lower IQs) and (2) screening devices for identifying those at risk of becoming neglectful (especially among lower IQ parents). Findings would inform existing cognitively-based intervention and prevention work and reduce the number of children suffering long term negative sequelae..
Effective start/end date8/15/097/31/10


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $594,322.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $592,744.00


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