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Romantic functioning mediates prospective associations between childhood abuse and neglect and parenting outcomes in adulthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2019

Madelyn H. Labella
Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota
K. Lee Raby
Department of Psychology, University of Utah
Jodi Martin
Department of Psychology, York University
Glenn I. Roisman
Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota
E-mail address:


Research suggests intergenerational links between childhood abuse and neglect and subsequent parenting quality, but little is known about the potential mechanisms underlying intergenerational continuities in parenting. Adult romantic functioning may be one plausible mechanism, given its documented associations with both adverse caregiving in childhood and parenting quality in adulthood. The present study used data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation to (a) investigate prospective associations between childhood experiences of abuse and neglect and multiple parenting outcomes in adulthood, and (b) evaluate the degree to which adult romantic functioning mediates those associations. Information regarding childhood abuse and neglect was gathered prospectively from birth through age 17.5 years. Multimethod assessments of romantic functioning were collected repeatedly through early adulthood (ages 20 to 32 years), and parenting quality was assessed as participants assumed a parenting role (ages 21 to 38 years). As expected, childhood abuse and neglect experiences predicted less supportive parenting (observed and interview rated) and higher likelihood of self-reported Child Protective Services involvement. The association with interview-rated supportive parenting was partially mediated by lower romantic competence, whereas the association with Child Protective Services involvement was partially mediated by more relational violence in adult romantic relationships. Implications of these novel prospective findings for research and clinical intervention are discussed.

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The Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (R01 HD054850), the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH40864), and the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG039453). This research was also supported by a University of Minnesota Graduate Fellowship awarded to Madelyn Labella and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship (Award Number 756-2014-0109) awarded to Jodi Martin.


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Romantic functioning mediates prospective associations between childhood abuse and neglect and parenting outcomes in adulthood
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