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Maternal history of childhood maltreatment and later parenting behavior: A meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2019

Laura-Émilie Savage
School of Psychology, Laval University, Québec City, Canada University Centre for Research on Youth and Family, Québec City, Canada
George M. Tarabulsy
School of Psychology, Laval University, Québec City, Canada University Centre for Research on Youth and Family, Québec City, Canada
Jessica Pearson
University Centre for Research on Youth and Family, Québec City, Canada School of Psychoeducation, University of Québec at Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Canada
Delphine Collin-Vézina
University Centre for Research on Youth and Family, Québec City, Canada School of Social Work, McGill University, Montréal, Canada
Lisa-Marie Gagné
School of Psychology, Laval University, Québec City, Canada University Centre for Research on Youth and Family, Québec City, Canada


Exposure to maltreatment during childhood (CM) can have deleterious effects throughout the life span of an individual. A parent's history of child maltreatment can also impact his or her own parenting behavior. Theoretically, parents who experienced maltreatment as children may have fewer resources to cope with the challenges of childrearing and may adopt more problematic parenting behaviors. However, empirical studies examining the association between CM and later parenting behavior have yielded mixed results. The aim of this study is to conduct a meta-analysis of studies that have examined the association between exposure to CM and the subsequent parenting outcomes of mothers of 0- to 6-year-old children. A secondary aim is to examine the potential impact of both conceptual and methodological moderators. A total of 32 studies (27 samples, 41 effect sizes, 17,932 participants) were retained for analysis. Results revealed that there is a small but statistically significant association between maternal exposure to CM and parenting behavior (r = –.13, p < .05). Moderator analyses revealed that effect sizes were larger when parenting measures involved relationship-based or negative, potentially abusive behaviors, when samples had a greater number of boys compared to girls, and when studies were older versus more recent. Results are discussed as they relate to the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment and abuse.

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