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Child Maltreat. 2016 Nov;21(4):317-326. doi: 10.1177/1077559516659556. Epub 2016 Jul 27.

Intergenerational Effects of Childhood Trauma: Evaluating Pathways Among Maternal ACEs, Perinatal Depressive Symptoms, and Infant Outcomes.

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1 University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA.


Maternal adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been associated with negative physical and mental health outcomes in adulthood. Less is known regarding how maternal ACEs relate to perinatal depressive symptoms or the intergenerational effect of maternal childhood trauma history on birth outcomes and infant functioning. To address this gap, an at-risk sample of 398 pregnant women was recruited from Women, Infants, and Children health clinics. Participants completed a prenatal ( M = 4.84 months before due date) and postnatal ( M = 6.76 months after birth) assessment and provided birth outcome data. At the prenatal assessment, mothers completed an ACEs measure which assessed experiences of childhood maltreatment and household dysfunction. Self-report measures of maternal depressive symptoms were obtained at both time points. Mothers reported on infant socioemotional functioning at 6 months. Maternal ACEs predicted higher levels of prenatal depressive symptoms. Childhood maltreatment experiences, in particular, predicted higher postnatal depressive symptoms and a smaller reduction in depressive symptoms across the perinatal period. Regarding intergenerational associations, maternal childhood maltreatment directly predicted higher levels of maladaptive infant socioemotional symptoms, whereas maternal household dysfunction indirectly related to infant socioemotional symptoms through maternal age at first pregnancy and infant birth weight. Limitations and future directions are discussed.


adverse childhood experiences; birth weight; childhood household dysfunction; childhood maltreatment; infant functioning; perinatal depressive symptoms


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