Mothers who experienced adverse childhood experiences report higher levels of parent-to-child aggression risk
October 18, 2022
Instances of potentially traumatic events in one’s childhood, known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), are a risk factor for parent-to-child aggression, a new study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence finds.
The study, “Understanding the Intergenerational Cycle of Trauma and Violence: Maternal Adverse Childhood Experiences and Parent-to-Child Aggression Risk” published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence draws insight on the factors that may lead to aggressive parenting behaviors. The study came to several crucial conclusions, including:
- Women who have experienced high levels of different forms of ACEs as children are at the greatest risk for parent-to-child aggression
- Mothers who experiences high levels of ACEs during their own childhoods show more favorable attitudes towards corporal punishment
- Preventive interventions targeting parental attitudes and behaviors among young women exposed to ACEs is key to help break the cycle of intergenerational violence.
The 329 participating women completed a survey in a Mid-Atlantic city in the U.S.. Of the 329 participants, over two-thirds identified as African American, and over three-fourths of participants reported family income below $25,000 a year. Participants answered survey questions relating to their exposure to ACEs as a child, including childhood maltreatment and dysfunctional households. Further, participants rated their own agreement or disagreement with statements such as “spanking teaches children right from wrong” to gauge their parent-to-child aggression risk. The results identified three classes of exposure to ACEs, and each group indicated different attitudes regarding parenting.
“Specifically, this study found that participants in the High/Multiple ACEs class reported higher levels of parent-to-child aggression risk than those in the Low ACEs,” writes Shin.
While the study does not suggest a causal relationship between ACEs and parent-to-child aggression, its findings may shine light on the origins of ACEs. Participants in this study largely consisted of Black women from low-income backgrounds, living in an urban setting that is medically underserved. Thus, the study’s conclusions may suggest that the living conditions caused by poverty and racial inequity may foundationally contribute to the prevalence of ACEs.
“The findings of the present study unquestionably suggest that promoting racial equity in education and advancing racial equity in health care cannot be separated from any societal efforts to prevent ACEs and other childhood adversities,” says Shin. “Embedding racial equity within and across all levels of prevention efforts is necessary to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and to mitigate the negative effects of maternal ACEs on parenting attitudes and practices, particularly among women with a history of ACEs.”
The study’s authors include: Sunny H. Shin, PhD; Camie A. Tomlinson, MSW; Devin Nelson-Hence, BA; and Gabriela Ksinan Jiskrova, PhD.
The study “Understanding the Intergenerational Cycle of Trauma and Violence: Maternal Adverse Childhood Experiences and Parent-to-Child Aggression Risk” was supported by the Virginia Department of Social Services.