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Animal and human studies suggest that individual differences in maternal parenting behaviour are transmitted from one generation to the next.
This study aimed to examine potential psychosocial mechanisms underlying an intergenerational transmission of conceptualization of parenting, including affect, cognition, and parental support.
In a subsample of 201 first-time mothers participating in the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment (MAVAN) project, we assessed maternal childhood rearing experiences, using the Parental Bonding Instrument and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. At 6 months postpartum, mothers completed questionnaires on parenting stress, symptoms of depression, internalization of maternal care regulation and current relationship with mother and father.
We found significant direct associations of maltreatment and rearing by the grandmother with parenting stress at 6 months. These associations were mediated through distinct psychosocial pathways: the association of maltreatment on higher parenting stress was fully mediated through more maternal symptoms of depression (z = 2.297; P = 022). The association between sub-optimal rearing provided by the mother and higher parenting stress was mediated through lower internalization of maternal care regulation (z = -2.155; P = 031) and to a lesser degree through more symptoms of depression (z = -1.842; P = 065). Finally, higher quality rearing by the grandfather was indirectly related to lower parenting stress through positive current relationship with the father (z = -2.617; P = 009).
There are distinct pathways by which early experiences manifest in parenting stress. By understanding the structure of dysregulated parenting, clinicians will have practical information to specifically target maternal motivation, social supports, and depressed mood to disrupt maladaptive parenting cognitions and practices.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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