Child exposure to violence and self-regulation in South African preschool-age children from low-income settings

Publication Name

Child Abuse and Neglect


Biological and psychosocial stressors that have been associated with income include family dynamics such as household chaos, family conflict, maternal depression, harsh parenting, lower parental responsiveness, and exposure to violence. Research from high income countries has shown that exposure to violence may have detrimental effects on children's self-regulation, with possible flow-on implications for broad later-life outcomes, but less is known about such links in low- and- middle income countries, where many children live in violent communities and households and where physical punishment remains the norm. This study aimed to investigate exposure to violence, in addition to coercive parenting, and its associations with self-regulation among 243 3- to 5-year-olds (M = 4.7 ± 0.6; 51.9 % female) from low-income settings in Cape Town and who were not attending Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). Results showed that self-regulation was not associated with child exposure to community violence, but it was positively associated with coercive parenting (β = 0.17; p = 0.03). The null concurrent associations between exposure to violence and self-regulation suggest the need for additional research aimed at understanding later potential developmental sequelae. It is important that findings regarding coercive parenting are contextualised within local social norms around parenting styles, as well as the influence of living in dangerous communities on parenting practices.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

British Academy



Link to publisher version (DOI)