Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: The Role of Parent Emotion Socialization and Children's Emotion Regulation Abilities

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Abstract

Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is a traumatic life event. Almost 50 percent of IPV-exposed children show subsequent post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), and they are at increased risk for depression. We examined maternal emotion socialization and children's emotion regulation as a pathway that may protect IPV-exposed children from developing PTSS and depression. Fifty-eight female survivors of IPV and their 6- to 12-year-old children participated. Results showed no direct relations between maternal emotion socialization and child adjustment. However, several indirect effects were observed. Higher mother awareness and acceptance of sadness and awareness of fear predicted better child sadness and fear regulation, respectively, which in turn was related to fewer child PTSS. Similar indirect pathways were found with child depression. In addition, mothers’ acceptance and coaching of anger was associated with better child anger regulation, which related to fewer depression symptoms. Implications for prevention and intervention with high-risk families are discussed.

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