Parents who had severe trauma, stresses in childhood more likely to have kids with behavioral health problems

July 9, 2018, University of California, Los Angeles
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study finds that severe childhood trauma and stresses early in parents' lives are linked to higher rates of behavioral health problems in their own children.

The types of hardships included divorce or separation of parents, death of or estrangement from a parent, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence in the home, exposure to substance abuse in the household or parental mental illness.

"Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioral harms of extend across generations from parent to child," said the study's lead author, Dr. Adam Schickedanz. He is a pediatrician and health services researcher and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The study showed that the children of parents who themselves had four or more adverse childhood experiences were at double the risk of having hyperactivity disorder and were four time more likely to have mental health problems.

A mother's childhood experiences had a stronger adverse effect on a child's behavioral health than the father's experiences, the study found.

Parents who lived through adverse childhood experiences were more likely to report higher levels of aggravation as parents and to experience mental health problems, the researchers found. However, these mental health and attitude factors only explained about a quarter of the association to their child's elevated behavioral health risks. The remainder of how the parent's adverse childhood experiences are transmitted to their child's behavior deserves further study.

The findings add to the evidence supporting standardized assessment of parents for adverse childhood experiences during their child's pediatric health visits.

"If we can identify these children who are at a higher risk, we can connect them to services that might reduce their risk or prevent behavioral health problems," Schickedanz said.

The researchers used information from a national survey containing information from four generations of American families, including information from parents about whether they were abused, neglected or exposed to other family stressors or maltreatment while growing up, and information on their children's behavior problems and medical diagnoses of attention deficit disorder.

With this data, they were able to find strong associations between the ' adversity histories and their children's behavioral , while controlling for factors such as family poverty and education level.

The next step for researchers is to look at how resilience factors, such as the support of mentors or teachers, could offset the harms of childhood traumas, Schickedanz said.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Explore further: Trauma from parents' youth linked to poorer health, asthma in their own children

More information: Pediatrics (2018). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2018-0023

Related Stories

Trauma from parents' youth linked to poorer health, asthma in their own children

June 5, 2018
Trauma experienced by a parent during childhood has long-reaching consequences—maybe even to the point of negatively impacting their own children's health, a new Drexel University study found.

Early childhood adversities linked to health problems in tweens, teens

October 30, 2017
Adverse experiences in childhood—such as the death of a parent, growing up in poverty, physical or sexual abuse, or having a parent with a psychiatric illness—have been associated with physical and mental health problems ...

Higher rate of hospital admissions for children living with adults with mental health conditions or alcohol dependency

May 23, 2018
Children who live with an adult with a mental health condition or alcohol dependency are significantly more likely to have an unplanned hospital admission, especially for injury and maltreatment, suggests a study by the National ...

New psychology study finds adverse childhood experiences transfer from one generation to the next

June 27, 2017
Women who suffer four or more adverse childhood experiences before the age of 18 are more likely to face pregnancy and postpartum problems, which they may in turn pass on to their children in a "cascade of risk," according ...

How compassion can triumph over toxic childhood trauma

April 5, 2018
In a recent piece on the television show 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey discussed childhood trauma —shining a public spotlight on the lasting effects of abuse and adversity in childhood. Oprah herself is a survivor of childhood ...

Study finds ADHD and trauma often go hand in hand

May 6, 2014
When children struggle with focusing on tasks, staying organized, controlling their behavior and sitting still, they may be evaluated for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Clinicians, however, shouldn't stop ...

Recommended for you

Greening vacant lots reduces feelings of depression in city dwellers, study finds

July 20, 2018
Greening vacant urban land significantly reduces feelings of depression and improves overall mental health for the surrounding residents, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Arts & Sciences ...

New study questions use of talking therapy as a treatment for schizophrenia

July 20, 2018
The findings of the first meta-analysis examining the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for psychosis (CBTp) on improving the quality of life and functioning and reducing distress of people diagnosed with schizophrenia ...

People love to hate on do-gooders, especially at work

July 20, 2018
Sometimes, it doesn't pay to be a do-gooder, according to a new University of Guelph study.

Perfectionism in young children may indicate OCD risk

July 19, 2018
Studying young children, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that kids who possess tendencies toward perfectionism and excessive self-control are twice as likely as other children to ...

Younger children tend to make more informed decisions

July 19, 2018
A new study from the University of Waterloo has found that in some ways, the older you get the worse your decision making becomes.

Finding well-being through an aerial, as opposed to ground-level, view of time

July 19, 2018
Do today and yesterday and tomorrow loom large in your thinking, with the more distant past and future barely visible on the horizon? That's not unusual in today's time-pressed world—and it seems a recipe for angst.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

etherair
5 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2018
Grandmother was abused substantially as a child. She in turn retaliated against her own male children. Suicides and murder happened for three generations.
I and my four siblings went different directions physically but...
Three have adult children still struggling with issues. One has children with dangerously serious problems.
And one of us (not me) has children classified as 'normal'.

Genetics gives predispositions, but observed differences in consistency of discipline caused the differences in outcomes of the five siblings' children.
Consistently high levels of violence are bad, lower levels of violence randomly applied is much worse. The trauma comes from lack of ability to affect the violence with behavior changes.
Instinct continues to attempt just that, expecting to eventually hit on the correct attitude.

Anecdotes, relevant to me but statistically useless.
kkoppy
not rated yet Jul 12, 2018
"If we can identify these children who are at a higher risk, we can connect them to services that might reduce their risk or prevent behavioral health problems," Schickedanz said.

Not just the "children" but the parents too!! Parents contribute greatly to their children's well being. Parents teach their children (or not) how to regulate, manage stress, emotions, conflict, integrate, and so many other things. Children would do better if they knew how. Parents too!!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.