Existing research is limited regarding intergenerational effects of adolescent mothers' abuse histories on their children and the pathways by which transmission of risk occurs. The current study examined whether a history of childhood abuse in adolescent mothers is related to offspring adjustment in elementary school. The investigation included a community sample of 115 adolescent mother-child dyads recruited to be part of a longitudinal evaluation of parenting. Mothers reported their abuse history; attachment security was measured using the Strange Situation; child externalizing behaviour was reported by mothers when the children were age 4.5; child adjustment was reported by teachers; academic achievement was assessed using standardized assessments when the children were in grade 3. Path analyses were conducted to: (a) evaluate the direct effects between maternal history of abuse and child adjustment in elementary school; and (b) evaluate the indirect effects of attachment security and child preschool externalizing behaviour on child adjustment. Maternal childhood abuse predicted child internalizing problems and social competence in Grade 3. Mother-infant attachment mediated the relationship between maternal childhood abuse and child externalizing problems as well as social competence. Implications for interventions supporting parents with trauma histories and their children are highlighted.
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Thesis advisor: Mcmahon, Robert J.
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