The Link Between Childhood Maltreatment and Caregiver Stress
Design and Methods: Among 1,001 parental caregivers who were selected from the 2003-2005 wave of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, 226 respondents had experienced parental abuse or neglect during childhood. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models were estimated.
Results: Persons who had been verbally and physically abused during childhood and persons who had been neglected during childhood experienced significantly more frequent depressive symptoms when providing care to their abusive/neglectful parent(s) than caregivers who did not have a history of abuse or neglect. The four coping styles mediated the relationship between caring for past abusive/neglectful parent(s) and depressive symptoms. Moreover, problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies and positive social support had significant moderating effects showing that these coping strategies were harmful to the maltreated caregivers, deepening their depression.
Implications: This vulnerable group of caregivers should be recognized in the development and implementation of support services for family caregivers at the state and national levels. In direct practice settings, when assessing caregiver stress and burden, the history of childhood maltreatment needs to be taken into account.
Keywords: caregiver, caregiving, child maltreatment, child abuse and neglect, coping styles, depressive symptoms, stress process model