Trauma Exposure, PTSD, and Parenting in a Community Sample of Low-Income, Predominantly African American Mothers and Children

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Abstract

Objectives: Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with problematic parenting and incidence of trauma and PTSD in children of affected parents. In communities impacted by frequent trauma, parenting may be particularly important to children’s PTSD risk. The authors examined relationships among maternal and child trauma and mental health, as well as problematic parenting. Method: The authors recruited 112 mother–child dyads (50 girls, 62 boys; ages 8–12 years old) from a community sample of low-income, primarily African American families. They examined rates of trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms in mothers and children, the association of maternal trauma and PTSD with self-reported child abuse potential and parenting stress (i.e., parental distress, dysfunctional parent–child interactions, and perceived child difficulty), and the impact of maternal trauma, PTSD, and parenting on child trauma and PTSD. Results: Rates of trauma and PTSD symptoms were relatively high for mothers and children and included community and family violence. Maternal trauma and PTSD predicted child abuse potential, but only maternal PTSD predicted parental distress. Neither maternal trauma nor PTSD predicted parent-reported dysfunctional parent–child interactions or child difficulty. Maternal child abuse potential and child self-reported trauma, but not maternal trauma or PTSD, significantly predicted child self-reported PTSD. Parenting stress was not associated with child PTSD. Conclusions: Trauma and PTSD in parents may impact parental distress and child abuse potential, potentially increasing children’s risk for not only the experience of child abuse, but also PTSD. Child and family interventions should consider child and parental trauma and PTSD as important factors to address.

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