MONDAY, July 9, 2018 (HealthDay News) — When a parent has suffered abuse or other adversities as a child, their children may be more prone to mood and behavior problems, a new study suggests.
The findings imply that the impact of childhood traumas can stretch across generations, the researchers said.
Parents’ own mental health seemed to partly explain the results, said lead researcher Dr. Adam Schickedanz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
That makes sense, since previous research has shown that when parents have a mental health condition — like depression or an anxiety disorder — that can affect their ability to read and respond to their kids, he explained.
“We’re not sounding alarm bells,” Schickedanz said. “This simply reinforces what we all know intuitively — that the way we were raised, and our life experiences, affect how we raise our children. The role models we had shape our expectations of parenting.”
No one is trying to “blame” those parents or imply that their kids are destined to have problems, he added.
Instead, he said, the findings show that those children are at relatively greater risk than other kids.
Dr. Daniel Schechter, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who was not involved in the study, agreed.
But like any such study, this one is reporting averages across groups, noted Schechter, who directs the Stress, Trauma and Resilience program at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, in New York City.
“A statistical analysis can’t capture individual differences,” Schechter said.
For example, even if parents faced adversities as kids, they may also have had positive experiences — including positive adult role models — that countered the negatives.
But Schechter said the findings underscore an important point: Children’s behavioral and emotional difficulties should be seen as a family issue — and not only the child’s.
So when a child is evaluated for any problems, he said, the health care provider can ask parents questions about the whole family dynamic. And that can include questions about their own childhood experiences.