Maternal experiences of childhood abuse and intimate partner violence: Psychopathology and functional impairment in clinical children and adolescents

Jenniffer K Miranda, Nuria de la Osa, Roser Granero, Lourdes Ezpeleta
Child Abuse & Neglect 2011, 35 (9): 700-11

OBJECTIVES: The current study examined the independent effects of mothers' childhood abuse (CA) and intimate partner violence (IPV) on psychopathology and functional impairment in children; and the potential moderating and mediating role of individual and family factors in these relationships. Additionally, this study explored the potential cumulative effects of both maternal CA and IPV on children's outcomes.

METHOD: The sample included 547 Spanish children and adolescents aged between 8 and 17 years, and their parents, who had accessed mental health services. The assessment was based on structured interviews with the children and their parents. Statistical analyses were carried out through hierarchical multiple, negative-binomial and logistic regressions, and Structural Equation Models.

RESULTS: Children whose mothers experienced CA and those whose mothers suffered physical IPV showed increased DSM-IV disruptive disorders and externalizing behavior problems, respectively. Children who directly observed physical IPV and also suffered physical punishment by parents showed increased internalizing problems. IPV had effects, either direct or indirect by physical punishment, on children's externalizing problems. Cumulative effect analyses indicated that the prevalence of disruptive disorders was highest in children whose mothers had suffered both CA and IPV.

CONCLUSION: Spanish children whose mothers have suffered CA, IPV or both, are at high risk of serious conduct problems, whereas children exposed to IPV and who were also physically abused are at greater risk of internalizing problems. Physical punishment of children contributes in part to explain externalizing problems of IPV-exposed children. These findings indicate potential targets of assessment and intervention for families seeking help in mental health services.

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