The impact of cumulative maternal trauma and diagnosis on parenting behavior

Lisa R. Cohen, Denise A. Hien, Sarai Batchelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


This study examines the relative contributions of cumulative maternal trauma, substance use, depressive and posttraumatic stress diagnoses on parental abuse potential, punitiveness, and psychological and physical aggression in a sample of 176 urban mothers. Participants were categorized into four groups: substance use (n = 41), depressed (n = 40), comorbid (n = 47), and control (n = 48). Participants in the three diagnostic groups reported significantly greater interpersonal trauma exposure than did controls. Hierarchical regressions reveal that cumulative trauma is a significant predictor of all parenting outcomes, even after controlling for demographic and diagnostic variables. Substance use and depression are significantly related to abuse potential, and PTSD is significantly negatively related to physical discipline, with no other significant associations between diagnostic status and parenting outcomes. These findings add to an important growing literature examining the impact of cumulative trauma on parental functioning. Implications for future research and parenting interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Child maltreatment
  • Depression
  • Parenting
  • Substance abuse
  • Trauma

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