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Mediating links between maternal childhood trauma and pre-adolescent behavioral adjustment


Structural equation modeling was used to simultaneously examine maternal psychological distress and social support as mediators linking maternal childhood trauma (MCT) to both maternal and child-reported behavior at 9 years of age in 231 birth mother-child dyads, who were primarily poor, urban, and African American. One half of the mothers (n = 116) reported a history of childhood abuse and neglect. Although MCT was associated with both increased maternal psychological distress and limited social support at 6 years, the pathway to child behavior ratings at 9 years was informant dependent. MCT influenced maternal ratings of her child’s behavior, with some effects mediated through psychological distress. MCT indirectly influenced children’s self-perception of behavior through maternal experience of social support. Maternal ratings and child self-ratings of child behavior problems were moderately correlated. No significant gender interaction was found.

Findings suggest a need for understanding trauma histories in the lives of mothers who seek assistance for parenting and child behavior problems, especially in urban low income communities. Interventions targeting both increasing maternal social support and reducing psychological distress may promote competency and resiliency among children for whom MCT poses a risk to optimal development.


Min, M.O., Singer, L.T., Minnes, S., et al. (2013). Mediating Links between Childhood Trauma and Preadolescent Behavioral Adjustment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(4), pp. 831-851.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23