The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Link Between Childhood Maltreatment and Caregiver Stress

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jooyoung Kong, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Sara Moorman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hil, MA
Purpose: This study examined depressive symptoms among adult survivors of childhood maltreatment who provide care to their former abusive/neglectful parents. We also examined the extent to which four coping styles – problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, positive social support, and negative social support – mediated and moderated the association between childhood maltreatment and depressive symptoms of the caregivers.

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