Relational trauma in the context of intimate partner violence

Brittany K Lannert, Antonia M Garcia, Kathryn E Smagur, Matthew M Yalch, Alytia A Levendosky, G Anne Bogat, Joseph S Lonstein
Child Abuse & Neglect 2014, 38 (12): 1966-75
The relational model of trauma (Scheeringa & Zeanah, 2001) proposes that infants' trauma symptoms may be influenced by their mothers' trauma symptoms and disruptions in caregiving behavior, although the mechanisms by which this occurs are less well understood. In this research, we examined the direct and indirect effects of a traumatic event (maternal intimate partner violence [IPV]), maternal trauma symptoms, and impaired (harsh and neglectful) parenting on infant trauma symptoms in a sample of mother-infant dyads (N=182) using structural equation modeling. Mothers completed questionnaires on IPV experienced during pregnancy and the child's first year of life, their past-month trauma symptoms, their child's past-month trauma symptoms, and their parenting behaviors. Results indicated that the effects of prenatal IPV on infant trauma symptoms were partially mediated by maternal trauma symptoms, and the relationship between maternal and infant trauma symptoms was fully mediated by neglectful parenting. Postnatal IPV did not affect maternal or infant trauma symptoms. Findings support the application of the relational model to IPV-exposed mother-infant dyads, with regard to IPV experienced during pregnancy, and help identify potential foci of intervention for professionals working with mothers and children.

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