Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Child Abuse Negl. 2010 May;34(5):332-44. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.09.017. Epub 2010 Mar 31.

Do trauma symptoms mediate the relationship between childhood physical abuse and adult child abuse risk?

Author information

  • 1Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115-2854, USA.



Although the intergenerational transmission of family violence has been well documented, the mechanisms responsible for this effect have not been fully determined. The present study examined whether trauma symptoms mediate the relationship between a childhood history of child physical abuse (CPA) and adult CPA risk, and whether any such mediation was similar for women and men.


Female and male US Navy (USN) recruits (N=5,394) and college students (N=716) completed self-report measures of their history of child abuse (i.e., CPA and child sexual abuse [CSA]), exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV), current trauma symptoms, and adult CPA risk.


As expected, there was a strong association between a childhood history of CPA and adult CPA risk. This association was significant even after controlling for demographic variables and childhood exposure to other forms of violence (CSA and IPV), and the strength of the relationship did not vary depending on demographics or exposure to other forms of violence. However, the association between a history of CPA and adult risk of CPA was stronger for individuals high in defensive avoidance compared to those low in defensive avoidance. The association between a history of CPA and adult CPA risk was largely, although not entirely, mediated by psychological trauma symptoms. Mediation was observed for both women and men in both the USN and college samples.


Trauma symptoms associated with a history of CPA accounted for a substantial part of the relationship between a history of CPA and adult CPA risk in both women and men.


To the extent that trauma symptoms are a mechanism by which the intergenerational transmission of child abuse occurs, intervening to reduce trauma symptoms in CPA victims has the potential of reducing their risk of continuing the cycle of violence.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk