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Testing the cycle of maltreatment hypothesis: Meta-analytic evidence of the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment

  • Sheri Madigan (a1) (a2), Chantal Cyr (a3) (a4), Rachel Eirich (a1), R. M. Pasco Fearon (a5), Anh Ly (a1), Christina Rash (a1), Julia C. Poole (a1) and Lenneke R. A. Alink (a6)...

Abstract

It has long been claimed that “maltreatment begets maltreatment,” that is, a parent's history of maltreatment increases the risk that his or her child will also suffer maltreatment. However, significant methodological concerns have been raised regarding evidence supporting this assertion, with some arguing that the association weakens in samples with higher methodological rigor. In the current study, the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment hypothesis is examined in 142 studies (149 samples; 227,918 dyads) that underwent a methodological quality review, as well as data extraction on a number of potential moderator variables. Results reveal a modest association of intergenerational maltreatment (k = 80; d = 0.45, 95% confidence interval; CI [0.37, 0.54]). Support for the intergenerational transmission of specific maltreatment types was also observed (neglect: k = 13, d = 0.24, 95% CI [0.11, 0.37]; physical abuse: k = 61, d = 0.41, 95% CI [0.33, 0.49]; emotional abuse: k = 18, d = 0.57, 95% CI [0.43, 0.71]; sexual abuse: k = 18, d = 0.39, 95% CI [0.24, 0.55]). Methodological quality only emerged as a significant moderator of the intergenerational transmission of physical abuse, with a weakening of effect sizes as methodological rigor increased. Evidence from this meta-analysis confirms the cycle of maltreatment hypothesis, although effect sizes were modest. Future research should focus on deepening understanding of mechanisms of transmission, as well as identifying protective factors that can effectively break the cycle of maltreatment.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sheri Madigan, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Ave., Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4; E-mail: sheri.madigan@ucalgary.ca.

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Testing the cycle of maltreatment hypothesis: Meta-analytic evidence of the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment

  • Sheri Madigan (a1) (a2), Chantal Cyr (a3) (a4), Rachel Eirich (a1), R. M. Pasco Fearon (a5), Anh Ly (a1), Christina Rash (a1), Julia C. Poole (a1) and Lenneke R. A. Alink (a6)...

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