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Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Childhood Maltreatment: Effects on Offspring Mental Health

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: 2023 Pages: 119-129
Date Published
11 pages

This report describes a study that evaluated how continuities and discontinuities in the transmission of maltreatment from one generation to the next, affects the psychopathology of offspring; the document lays out the research methodology, results, and implications for further research.


This study evaluated how continuities and discontinuities in the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment affect offspring psychopathology. Data from a multigenerational, prospective, longitudinal study were used to compare the severity of offspring psychopathology in families with no history of maltreatment (controls) and those in which parents, offspring, or both experienced childhood maltreatment (cycle breakers, initiators, and maintainers, respectively). Participants included 454 parents. Offspring of cycle breakers reported less psychopathology than offspring of cycle maintainers and did not report more psychopathology than offspring of controls. Offspring of cycle initiators and maintainers reported comparable levels of psychopathology. Results suggest that breaking the cycle of maltreatment buffers offspring from risk for psychopathology associated with parental maltreatment, with no enduring or additive effects of maltreatment across generations. The authors’ findings highlight the need for maltreatment prevention programs and further research to identify conditions and characteristics that reduce the probability of intergenerational transmission. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023