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J Adolesc Health. 2013 Oct;53(4 Suppl):S32-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.05.004.

Safe, stable, nurturing relationships as a moderator of intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment: a meta-analysis.

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Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Electronic address:



The present paper summarizes findings of the special issue papers on the intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment and through meta-analysis explores the potential moderating effects of safe, stable, nurturing relationships (SSNRs).


Studies were selected for inclusion in this meta-analysis if they (1) were published in peer-reviewed journals; (2) tested for intergenerational continuity in any form of child maltreatment, using prospective, longitudinal data; and (3) tested for moderating effects of any variable of SSNRs on intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment. The search revealed only one additional study beyond the four reports written for this special issue that met inclusion criteria for the meta-analysis.


Estimates of intergenerational stability of child maltreatment from the studies included in this special issue are consistent with several other studies, which find that child maltreatment in one generation is positively related to child maltreatment in the next generation. Furthermore, meta-analytic results from the five studies that met the inclusion criteria suggest a protective, moderating effect of SSNRs on intergenerational continuity of child maltreatment. The calculated fail-safe index indicated that 49 unpublished intergenerational studies with an average null effect would be required to render nonsignificant the overall moderation effect of SSNRs on child maltreatment.


This special issue expanded the examination of SSNRs beyond the caregiver-child dyad. That is, these studies considered SSNRs in adult relationships as well as parent-child relationships. Results suggest that certain types of SSNRs between parents and other adults (e.g., romantic partner, co-parent, or adult social support resource) may decrease maltreatment continuity.


Buffering protective effects; Child maltreatment; Intergenerational continuity; Safe, stable nurturing relationships (SSNRs); Transgenerational patterns

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