A new study has revealed that parents who experienced trauma early in life are more likely to have children with behavioral issues. Some of the childhood hardships identified in the research include the death of a parent, divorce, abuse, and exposure to substance abuse or violence in the home.
Study lead author Dr. Adam Schickedanz is a pediatrician and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
“Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and mental health problems in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioral health harms of childhood adversity extend across generations from parent to child,” said Dr. Schickedanz.
The researchers found that when parents had at least four adverse childhood experiences, their children had double the risk of suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and were four times more likely to have mental health issues.
The experts also determined that the childhood experiences of the mother had a stronger impact on the behavioral health of a child compared to the influence of incidents in the father’s early life.
Parents with a history of damaging events during childhood were more likely to report both mental health problems and higher levels of aggravation as parents. These factors, however, only explained about 25 percent of the link to elevated behavioral health risks among the kids.
“If we can identify these children who are at a higher risk, we can connect them to services that might reduce their risk or prevent behavioral health problems,” said Dr. Schickedanz.
For their investigation, the experts analyzed data from a national survey containing information from four generations of American families. The researchers used responses from parents about whether they were abused, neglected, or exposed to other stressors or maltreatment while growing up. They also examined medical and behavioral information on the children.
This data showed a strong relationship between adversity in the parents’ history and behavioral health problems among their children.
Dr. Schickedanz said the team will now investigate how the support of teachers or other resilience factors may help combat the negative outcomes of childhood trauma.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.