Maternal childhood abuse and children's emotional-behavioral difficulties: Intergenerational transmission via birth outcomes and psychosocial health

Rebecca Giallo, Deirdre Gartland, Monique Seymour, Laura Conway, Fiona Mensah, Lorraine Skinner, Ali Fogarty, Stephanie Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms and psychosocial pathways potentially underlying the association between maternal childhood abuse exposure and poor child health and wellbeing is important to inform opportunities for support and intervention early in the period of becoming a parent. The aim of the study was to investigate whether adverse birth outcomes and psychosocial health issues (maternal depressive symptoms, exposure to intimate partner violence in the first postnatal year) are potential mechanisms underlying the association between maternal childhood abuse and children's emotional-behavioral functioning at 10 years. Data were drawn from 1,507 first-time mothers and their 10-year-old children participating in the Maternal Health Study, a prospective study of women's health during pregnancy and after birth. One in four women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual abuse in childhood. Children whose mothers had experienced either of these types of childhood abuse had significantly higher emotional-behavioral difficulties than children whose mothers had not. Psychosocial health pathways via maternal depressive symptoms and exposure of mothers to intimate partner violence in the first 12 months postpartum, but not adverse birth outcomes, mediated the association between maternal childhood abuse and children's emotional-behavioral difficulties. These findings underscore the need to support mothers who have experienced childhood abuse and psychosocial health issues, both as a means of promoting maternal health and mitigating the potential intergenerational risks for children's emotional and behavioral health.

LanguageEnglish
Pages112-121
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • Children
  • Depression
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Maternal childhood abuse
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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