Trauma Exposure in Relation to the Content of Mother-Child Emotional Conversations and Quality of Interaction

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 5;16(5):805. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16050805.


Parent-child conversations contribute to understanding and regulating children's emotions. Similarities and differences in discussed topics, quality of interaction and coherence/elaboration in mother-child conversations about emotional experiences of the child were studied in dyads who had been exposed to interpersonal trauma (N = 213) and non-trauma-exposed dyads (N = 86). Results showed that in conversations about negative emotions, trauma-exposed children more often discussed trauma topics and focused less on relationship topics than non-trauma-exposed children. Trauma-exposed dyads found it more difficult to come up with a story. The most common topics chosen by dyads to discuss for each emotion were mostly similar between trauma-exposed dyads and non-trauma-exposed dyads. Dyads exposed to interpersonal traumatic events showed lower quality of interaction and less coherence/elaboration than dyads who had not experienced traumatic events. Discussion of traumatic topics was associated with lower quality of mother-child interaction and less coherent dialogues. In conclusion, the effect of the trauma is seen at several levels in mother-child interaction: topics, behavior and coherence. A focus on support in developing a secure relationship after trauma may be important for intervention.

Keywords: emotion conversation; emotion dialogue; marital violence; mother-child interaction; parent-child communication; sexual abuse; trauma exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological*