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Breaking the intergenerational transmission of child abuse: Beyond the mother‐child relationship

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Abstract

Studies comparing abusive and non-abusive parents who were abused as children are reviewed to determine protective factors that may lead to a break in the transmission pattern.Non-abusers have several factors in common. For instance: they have extensive emotional and social support from significant others. they are aware of what happened to them as children and are openly angry about their abuse. and many of them received (psycho)therapy as adolescents or young adults. Discovering protective factors by which some parents overcome a family pattern of abuse is valuable in guiding both prevention and intervention efforts. A brief discussion of the influence of methodological variations of different studies on reported transmission rates precedes the review. Furthermore. attention is given to the underrepresentation of (abusive) fathers in theory as well as in research on child abuse. The effects of undervaluation of gender differences are discussed in terms of their importance in the occurrence and (breaks in the) transmission of child abuse.
... To systematically synthesise these factors, we adopted an approach based on the ecological framework of child maltreatment (Belsky, 1980) and on the intergenerational transmission of childhood abuse (Langeland & Dijkstra, 1995) (Fig. 1). This categorises health determinants into four different levels (individual, family, community and societal levels) which can be used to identify vulnerable populations and to inform specific multi-level interventions (Egan, Tannahill, Petticrew, & Thomas, 2008;Sidebotham & Heron, 2006;Wold & Mittelmark, 2018). ...
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Maternal experiences of childhood adversity can increase the risk of emotional and behavioural problems in their children. This systematic review and meta-analysis provide the first narrative and quantitative synthesis of the mediators and moderators involved in the link between maternal childhood adversity and children's emotional and behavioural development. We searched EMBASE, PsycINFO, Medline, Cochrane Library, grey literature and reference lists. Studies published up to February 2021 were included if they explored mediators or moderators between maternal childhood adversity and their children's emotional and behavioural development. Data were synthesised narratively and quantitatively by meta-analytic approaches. The search yielded 781 articles, with 74 full-text articles reviewed, and 41 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Maternal mental health was a significant individual-level mediator, while child traumatic experiences and insecure maternal-child attachment were consistent family-level mediators. However, the evidence for community-level mediators was limited. A meta-analysis of nine single-mediating analyses from five studies indicated three mediating pathways: maternal depression, negative parenting practices and maternal insecure attachment, with pooled indirect standardised effects of 0.10 [95% CI (0.03-0.17)), 0.01 (95% CI (-0.02 to 0.04)] and 0.07 [95% CI (0.01-0.12)], respectively. Research studies on moderators were few and identified some individual-level factors, such as child sex (e.g. the mediating role of parenting practices being only significant in girls), biological factors (e.g. maternal cortisol level) and genetic factors (e.g. child's serotonin-transporter genotype). In conclusion, maternal depression and maternal insecure attachment are two established mediating pathways that can explain the link between maternal childhood adversity and their children's emotional and behavioural development and offer opportunities for intervention.
... [8] Parents who use violence against their children may well have experienced violence as children themselves. [9] The prevalence of violence against children by parents and other close family members as well as deliberate neglect of children has been reported across the world. [10] The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 150 million female children and 73 million male children under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact, though this certainly is an underestimation. ...
Article
Background: The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life".[1] Violence can take many forms, including physical, sexual or emotional and varies in its severity. Gender discrimination, norms and practices mean that adolescent girls are likely to experience certain forms of violence, such as sexual violence, at much higher rates than boys. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in a rural block of North India. A total of 500 adolescent girls in the age group of 13-19 years studying in class VIII to class XII in 10 government and private senior secondary schools of the Lakhanmajra block were included in the study. A pre-designed pre-tested semi-structured interview schedule was used. Results: In this study, we found the prevalence of physical, sexual and emotional violence among adolescent girls as 6.6, 5.4 and 5.2%, respectively. The most frequent perpetrator of physical violence was the parent and of sexual violence was the neighbour followed by friends or relatives. Higher emotional violence was experienced by adolescent girls from middle-class families (P < 0.05). The prevalence of physical violence among adolescent girls was maximum in the younger age group 13-14 years (10.2%), followed by 15-17 years (4.0%). This association was found statistically significant (P < 0.05). Conclusions: There are several restrictions on free communication about violence-related topics in our highly conservative society. Blaming the victim is the rule rather than the exception and sexual abuse is usually linked to a loss of virginity and family honour in our patriarchal society. Hence, girls may be more reluctant to disclose their experience of violence.
... • increases the risk of psychopathology (89) • is a feature of developmental trauma disorder (DTD) (85,92,93) • is related to increased negative affect (90), and negative mental health outcomes (94) • mediates the relationship between childhood trauma and the resulting internalizing/externalizing behavior problems [e.g., (86,(95)(96)(97)], between severe trauma experience and the resulting symptomatology (90,98), and between maltreatment of children and their aggression toward peers (99) • is a core feature accounting for the increased risk of acute and life-time impairment [e.g., (87)], and an important target for therapeutic interventions (87) • mediates or moderates treatment related changes (100) The DSM-5 classification relates three disorders to childhood trauma and maltreatment: PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, characterized by low social-emotional responsiveness and ED, and Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder, characterized by active approaches to and interactions with unfamiliar adults (101). Abusing and neglectful parents mostly suffer themselves from severe harmful personal experiences (102). ...
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Background: Emotional dysregulation (ED) is a transdiagnostic construct defined as the inability to regulate the intensity and quality of emotions (such as, fear, anger, sadness), in order to generate an appropriate emotional response, to handle excitability, mood instability, and emotional overreactivity, and to come down to an emotional baseline. Because ED has not been defined as a clinical entity, and because ED plays a major role in child and adolescent psychopathology, we decided to summarize current knowledge on this topic based on a narrative review of the current literature. Methods: This narrative review is based on a literature search of peer-reviewed journals. We searched the databases ERIC, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO and PSYNDEX on June 2, 2020 for peer reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2020 in English language for the preschool, school, and adolescent age (2–17 years) using the following search terms: “emotional dysregulation” OR “affect dysregulation,” retrieving 943 articles. Results: The results of the literature search are presented in the following sections: the relationship between ED and psychiatric disorders (ADHD, Mood Disorders, Psychological Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Non-suicidal Self-Injury, Eating Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Disruptive Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Personality Disorders, Substance Use Disorder, Developmental Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Psychosis and Schizophrenia, and Gaming Disorder), prevention, and treatment of ED. Conclusion: Basic conditions of ED are genetic disposition, the experience of trauma, especially sexual or physical abuse, emotional neglect in childhood or adolescence, and personal stress. ED is a complex construct and a comprehensive concept, aggravating a number of various mental disorders. Differential treatment is mandatory for individual and social functioning.
... Our findings support those of previous reviews that have identified the significance of the perinatal period in transmission of intergenerational trauma regarding the effects of stress [167], and a wide range of protective factors which are outside the mother-child relationship [168]. Studies in our review also have similarities with other reviews of intergenerational transmission of self-regulatory capacities and development of executive functioning skills in the first year of life [169,170]. ...
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Background and aims Child maltreatment is a global health priority affecting up to half of all children worldwide, with profound and ongoing impacts on physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The perinatal period (pregnancy to two years postpartum) is critical for parents with a history of childhood maltreatment. Parents may experience ‘triggering’ of trauma responses during perinatal care or caring for their distressed infant. The long-lasting relational effects may impede the capacity of parents to nurture their children and lead to intergenerational cycles of trauma. Conversely, the perinatal period offers a unique life-course opportunity for parental healing and prevention of child maltreatment. This scoping review aims to map perinatal evidence regarding theories, intergenerational pathways, parents’ views, interventions and measurement tools involving parents with a history of maltreatment in their own childhoods. Methods and results We searched Medline, Psychinfo, Cinahl and Embase to 30/11/2016. We screened 6701 articles and included 55 studies (74 articles) involving more than 20,000 parents. Most studies were conducted in the United States (42/55) and involved mothers only (43/55). Theoretical constructs include: attachment, social learning, relational-developmental systems, family-systems and anger theories; ‘hidden trauma’, resilience, post-traumatic growth; and ‘Child Sexual Assault Healing’ and socioecological models. Observational studies illustrate sociodemographic and mental health protective and risk factors that mediate/moderate intergenerational pathways to parental and child wellbeing. Qualitative studies provide rich descriptions of parental experiences and views about healing strategies and support. We found no specific perinatal interventions for parents with childhood maltreatment histories. However, several parenting interventions included elements which address parental history, and these reported positive effects on parent wellbeing. We found twenty-two assessment tools for identifying parental childhood maltreatment history or impact. Conclusions Perinatal evidence is available to inform development of strategies to support parents with a history of child maltreatment. However, there is a paucity of applied evidence and evidence involving fathers and Indigenous parents.
... 18,69,70 However, along the way, supportive positive experiences including by family and/or friend support networks, or a supportive spouse may act as protective factors that ameliorate the effect of negative early experiences in the family of origin. 27,[71][72][73] Hence, as we have seen, optimal mothering requires efficient emotion regulation, cognition, learning/experience/, and executive function. Human mothers must be sensitive to infant cues and respond appropriately and in synchrony with the needs of the infant. ...
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New mammalian mothers undergo an increase in their maternal responsiveness with the birth of their infants. Associated with changes in responsiveness are how attracted mothers are to infant cues, mothers’ affective state, and their cognitive and executive function. In comparison to nonmothers, new mothers are more attracted to infant odors and are more easily alerted to their vocalizations; they undergo a reduction in withdrawal behaviors and anxiety, but increased lability. Their maternal sensitivity (human or licking intensity, rat) is associated with higher levels of attention and working memory. Maternal responsiveness and these associated behaviors are associated with large shifts in maternal hormones across parturition. Changes in expression of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters are affected by mothers’ prior experiences, including their very early experiences in their families of origin. The present review describes the regulation of mothering and associated behaviors by the neurotransmitters, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, in a rat model and in humans. Emphasis is then given to studies that focus on the role of genes and what we know about their expression in the functioning of these 3 neurochemical systems in new mothers. Studies of early experience, genetics, and human mothering show gene-by-environment interplays (interactions) for a number of DNA single-nucleotide polymorphism within both the oxytocin and serotonin systems, where associations between mothers’ early experiences and mothering/affect depend on mothers’ genotype. Studies also show associations between different dopamine genes and many aspects of both mothering and maternal affect. Where known, we also discuss evidence that the relation between early experience and mothering is often an indirect one, mediated through an effect of experience on mothers’ affect or executive function. In many cases, mothers’ genetic profile moderates these relations. Finally, preliminary evidence suggests a role of epigenetic mechanisms in these processes.
... At the individual level, for example, instability and low self-esteem are risk factors; at the family level, poverty increases the risk of perpetuating the violent cycle (Baas, 2001). Social support from the subject's immediate environment is one of the most important protective factors, as are counseling and therapy (Belsky, 1993;Langeland & Dijkstra, 1995). ...
Article
Young people are exposed to violence regularly in their homes, schools, and communities. Such exposure can cause them significant physical, mental, and emotional harm, with long-term effects lasting well into adulthood. Of particular concern is violence within the family, where children are victimized by their parents. Research shows that direct and indirect childhood exposure to violence and maltreatment within the family increases the risk of subsequent violent delinquent behavior. Social learning theory and attachment theory place parenting at the center of the “cycle of violence,” and “intergenerational transmission of violence” claims that experiencing violence in childhood will lead to the perpetration of violence in adolescence. Although much research has been done, these assertions have never been tested on a large international sample of young people. The current article fills this void by analyzing surveys completed by 57,892 students who were 12 to 16 years old from 25 countries as part of the International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRD3). Structural equation modeling (SEM) is used to test the direct and indirect effects of child maltreatment and interparental violence on self-reported violent delinquency. Mediating effects are proposed for attachment to parents, parental social control (measured by parental knowledge, parental monitoring, and child disclosure), and parental moral authority. Analysis suggests direct effects of child maltreatment and interparental violence, as well as mediating effects of parental monitoring, parental knowledge, and parental moral authority. Child disclosure and attachment to parents do not affect violent juvenile offending. Being a victim of both child maltreatment and interparental violence is found to exacerbate the effect on violent offending. The results support the cross-national generalizability of the “cycle of violence” argument that children tend to reproduce the behavior of their parents.
... CPS commonly offers mental health services to parents identified as having mental health problems, but there are concerns about the extent to which mental health problems are properly identified (Staudt & Cherry, 2009). Nevertheless, there is some evidence that psychotherapy for parents reduces maltreatment recidivism (Solomon & Åsberg, 2012) and may disrupt the cycle of maltreatment (Langeland & Dijkstra, 1995). More research is needed to determine how and for what subpopulations mental health services reduce ICTM. ...
... Having supportive relationships distinguishes abused parents who do and do not abuse their own children, and seems to be a protective factor against intergenerational transmission of ACEs (Berlin, Appleyard, & Dodge, 2011;Langeland & Dijkstra, 1995). Supportive relationships provide attachment security, which can lead to long-lasting positive relationship expectations, self-worth, and reinstate identity coherence when faced with self-doubt (Arndt, Schimel, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2002;Carnelley & Rowe, 2007;Kumashiro & Sedikides, 2005;Pierce & Lydon, 1998;Slotter & Gardner, 2014). ...
Article
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have far-reaching effects on adult mental health yet questions remain how these effects are transmitted psychologically. Because ACEs are rooted in disrupted caregiver-child relationships and are associated with negative self-views and poor social competencies, we hypothesized ACEs disrupt the development of a coherent sense of identity. This impoverished sense of self may then lead to poor adult mental health. The present study hypothesized ACEs effects on adult mental health are mediated by the clarity of one’s identity. We tested a model guided by the Hyman-Tate conceptual timing criterion for mediation on a sample of 305 adults and used self-concept clarity as identity coherence, and suicide behavior, depression, loneliness, perceived stress, and life distress as adult mental health outcomes. Results supported the hypothesized process: self-concept clarity mediated the effects of ACEs on all outcomes with small to medium indirect effect sizes and remained controlling for demographic variables. After including self-esteem as another mediator, all self-concept clarity indirect effects remained significant except for suicide behavior. Discussion centers on how ACEs relates to lower identity coherence and how to improve identity coherence for adult mental health.
Article
Strengths-based child welfare practice emphasises the importance of acknowledging clients’ capacities and potentials when addressing their presenting issues of child maltreatment. However, the child welfare literature has focused more on parents’ risk factors and deficits whilst giving limited attention to positive parenting practices that they may have employed. Based on semi-structured interviews with parents involved with child protective services (CPS), this study explored these parents’ self-identified parenting strengths in light of their family-of-origin experiences. Results of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) revealed that participants identified parenting strengths in the areas of provision, protection, emotional care and relational support, and parental guidance and discipline. All demonstrated a strong desire to provide their children with a better upbringing than their own and shared what they believed they had done well in parenting. Interestingly, participants seemed to have parented most intentionally in the areas in which they felt most deprived in their own childhood, which may have played a role in creating deficits in other areas of parenting. Implications for practice include the need for a ‘both/and’ approach that attends to parents’ strengths as well as areas for growth and the importance of family-of-origin work in child welfare practice.
Article
Focusing on accounts by women who have children taken into care, this paper reports on a socio-legal case study in England, investigating the life experiences of nine mothers, whose children have been made subject to care orders under the Children Act 1989. In particular it considers the women’s experiences of their relationships with their own mothers and places this within the context of the mothers’ own experiences of having their children taken into care. Drawing on free association narrative interviews, the study focuses on the mothers’ accounts of long-term harm that began in their childhoods, especially their experiences of their mothers’ own difficulties and of their experiences of harm. It highlights the impact of relationship difficulties between mother and child, and questions how the legal concepts of harm and reasonable parental care are defined and deployed. In conclusion, it demonstrates a need for the legal framework to address children’s experiences of harm in a more intergenerational and intersubjective way. It highlights a new approach, suggesting consideration of harm, reasonable parental care and welfare to involve an increased concentration on the welfare of mothers and the relationship between mother and child, akin to an intersubjective and intergenerational approach to harm.
Article
Data from a nationally representative sample of 2,143 adults were used to explore the relationship between two types of childhood family aggression and severe marital aggression in the next generation. The results indicate that observing hitting between one's parents is more strongly related to involvement in severe marital aggression than is being hit as a teenager by one's parents. In addition, the modeling of marital aggression does not appear to be sex specific. Observing one's father hitting one's mother increases the likelihood that sons will be victims as well as perpetrators, and that daughters will be perpetrators as well as victims of severe marital aggression. These results suggest that the transmission of family aggression across generations, while not sex specific, tends to be role specific and should be studied as such.