Intergenerational continuity of child abuse among adolescent mothers: authoritarian parenting, community violence, and race

Child Maltreat. 2012 May;17(2):172-81. doi: 10.1177/1077559511434945. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


Among the negative sequelae of child maltreatment is increased risk for continuity of maltreatment into subsequent generations. Despite acknowledgment in the literature that the pathways toward breaking the cycle of maltreatment are likely the result of dynamic interactions of risk and protective factors across multiple ecological levels, few studies have followed high-risk samples of maltreated and nonmaltreated parents over time to evaluate such processes. In the current investigation, exposure to community violence and authoritarian parenting attitudes were evaluated as predictors of the intergenerational continuity of abuse, and the moderating effect of African American race was examined. The sample included 70 mothers and their 18-year-old children, who have been followed longitudinally since the third trimester of the adolescent mothers' pregnancy. Results revealed that among mothers with a child abuse history, higher exposure to community violence and lower authoritarian parenting attitudes were associated with increased risk for intergenerational continuity of abuse. The relation of authoritarian parenting attitudes to intergenerational continuity was moderated by race; the protective effects of authoritarian parenting were limited to the African American families only. The salience of multiple ecological levels in interrupting the intergenerational continuity of child abuse is discussed, and implications for preventive programs are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Authoritarianism*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / ethnology
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting* / ethnology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence / psychology*