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Prev Med. 2018 Nov 22;118:286-294. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.11.013. [Epub ahead of print]

Maternal adverse childhood experiences, mental health, and child behaviour at age 3: The all our families community cohort study.

Author information

1
Department of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada. Electronic address: swmcdona@ucalgary.ca.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.
3
Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.
4
Department of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Abstract

Links between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and threats to health and well-being later in life are well established. The current study extends those findings into younger populations of pregnant women and their children; investigating how ACEs relates to maternal postpartum well-being, coping, and parenting, as well as child outcomes. Participants included 1994 mothers and children from the All Our Families community-based cohort in Alberta, Canada, followed from pregnancy (from 2008 to 2011) until child age 3 years. The sample is representative of the pregnant population in an urban Canadian centre. Mothers completed questionnaires on ACEs, postpartum mental health, as well as parenting morale, efficacy, coping, and personality. Child outcomes included internalizing and externalizing behavior, as well as temperament. Approximately 62% of participants experienced at least one ACE; 25% experienced 3 or more ACEs. The presence of 3 or more ACEs was associated with postpartum smoking, binge drinking, depressive and anxiety symptoms, lower optimism and higher neuroticism, and lower reported parenting morale. In children, 3 or more maternal ACEs was associated with higher levels of internalizing (e.g., anxiety) and externalizing difficulties (aggression and hyperactivity), as well as temperament (surgency and negative affectivity). Cumulative maternal ACEs are associated with postpartum mental health and parenting morale, as well as maladaptive coping strategies. The demonstrated downstream consequences of maternal ACEs for child outcomes suggests that early intervention strategies and community resources to improve life course outcomes for parents and children are critical for breaking intergenerational continuities of risk.

KEYWORDS:

Adverse childhood experiences; Birth cohort; Child behaviour; Child temperament; Maternal mental health; Parenting; Population-based

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