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Infant Ment Health J. 2015 Mar-Apr;36(2):146-55. doi: 10.1002/imhj.21496. Epub 2015 Jan 12.

Maternal abuse history, postpartum depression, and parenting: links with preschoolers' internalizing problems.

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University of Toronto and Hospital for Sick Children.


The current study examined a temporal cascade linking mothers' history of abuse with their children's internalizing difficulties through proximal processes such as maternal postnatal depressive symptoms and responsive parenting. Participants consisted of 490 mother-child dyads assessed at three time points when children were, on average, 2 months old at Time 1 (T1), 18 months at Time 2 (T2), and 36 months at Time 3 (T3). Maternal abuse history and depressive symptoms were assessed via questionnaires at T1. Observations of responsive parenting were collected at T2 and were coded using a validated coding scheme. Children's internalizing difficulties were assessed in the preschool period using averaged parental reports. Path analysis revealed that maternal physical abuse was associated with depressive symptoms postnatally, which were in turn associated with children's internalizing behavior at 36 months of age. We also found that the association between physical abuse history and responsive parenting operated indirectly through maternal depressive symptoms. These findings remained after controlling for covariates including socioeconomic status, child gender, and age. After accounting for physical abuse history, sexual abuse history was not associated with child internalizing problems either directly or indirectly through maternal depressive symptoms and/or parenting behavior. Thus, mothers' physical abuse history is a risk factor for relatively poor mental health, which is itself predictive of both later parenting behavior and children's internalizing problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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