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Maternal childhood abuse and offspring adjustment over time

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2007

This study addressed the basis for the intergenerational transmission of psychosocial risk associated with maternal childhood abuse in relation to offspring adjustment. The study tested how far group differences in individual change in adjustment over time were explained by differences in exposure to specific environmental risk experiences. Data are drawn from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Information on mothers' own experience of childhood abuse, offspring adjustment at ages 4 and 7 years, and hypothesized mediators was available for 5,619 families. A residuals scores analysis was used to track children's adjustment over time. Maternal childhood abuse was associated with poorer behavioral trajectories between ages 4 and 7 years. Children of abused mothers were more likely to experience a range of negative life events between ages 4 and 7 years, including changes in family composition, separations from parents, “shocks and frights” and physical assaults. Interim life events, together with antecedent psychosocial risk (maternal antenatal affective symptoms, age 4 parental hostility, age 4 family type) fully mediated the association between maternal childhood abuse and offspring prognosis.The authors express their gratitude to the families who participated in the study. Support for these analyses was provided by a grant from the Medical Research Council. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is part of the World Health Organisation initiated European Study of Pregnancy and Childhood, and is supported, among others, by the Wellcome Trust, The Department of Health, The Department of the Environment, and the Medical Research Council. The ALSPAC study team comprises interviewers, computer technicians, laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, and managers who continue to make the study possible.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephan Collishaw, MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Box Number PO46, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, 16 De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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