Session: Women, Trauma, and the Parenting of Young Children (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

171 Women, Trauma, and the Parenting of Young Children

Saturday, January 16, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Meeting Room Level-Franklin Square (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
Cluster: Mental Health
Symposium Organizer:
Sydney L. Hans, PhD, University of Chicago
In 1975 social worker and clinical scholar, Selma Fraiberg (1975), wrote about “Ghosts in the Nursery.”  The idea that parents bring their childhood histories and traumas to their own parenting became a foundational premise within infant mental health practice.  Decades later, we now have a large and growing empirical literature documenting how trauma histories are encoded in human biology and human memory and documenting that early adversity has lifelong impacts on physical and mental health (e.g., Shonkoff, 2014; Anda et al, 2006; Juster et al, 2011).  Multiple research projects now show that parent trauma history can impact parenting behavior and ultimately the development of the child (e.g., Levendosky, 2003).  Yet there remains much to be learned about the specific types of trauma experiences that have the greatest impacts on parenting and how the intergenerational transmission of trauma experiences might be ameliorated. 

This symposium session will present four studies conducted at four different universities.  These papers share a focus on women’s experiences of varied forms of maltreatment during childhood and violence during adulthood, and how those trauma experiences impact them when they are parenting of young children.  The symposium begins with a paper examining how young women’s histories of childhood maltreatment and intimate partner violence, reported during pregnancy, are related to postpartum depression.  Findings indicate that a history of polytraumatization, in particular, may elevate risk for postpartum depression.  The second paper examines the interplay of mothers’ childhood experiences of trauma and their adult experience of intimate partner violence in a low income sample.  Findings suggest that exposure to violence can reduce parenting sensitivity, but that there may be complex interactions between different types of violence exposure and that some mothers may compensate for their histories of trauma by becoming more supportive parents.  The third paper examines how trauma history relates to parenting in a sample of mothers being treated for substance use disorders.  Findings suggest that different aspects of trauma impact parenting stress and parenting competence.  The final paper explores the complex and lifelong trauma histories of a sample that includes women in substance-abuse treatment.  Findings suggest that infants are particularly at risk for disorganized attachment if their mothers experienced maltreatment during childhood and if their mental representations of those experiences involve themes of helplessness or hostility. 

Each of the authors, with engagement of the audience, will reflect on the implications of the findings for social work practice in the field of infant mental health.  The presenters will consider the importance of trauma-informed services for parents of infants and young children—in clinic settings offering mental health or substance abuse treatment and in home visiting programs offering prevention services.

This symposium has implications for two of the Grand Challenges for Social Work:  Ensure all youth get a good and healthy start and Stop family violence.

* noted as presenting author
Predicting Perinatal Depression in Low-Income Adolescent Mothers: The Role of Interpersonal Trauma and Polytraumatization
Candace Killian-Farrell, LCSW, MSSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Cynthia Fraga Rizo, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Brianna M. Lombardi, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sarah E. Bledsoe, PhD, MSW, MPhil, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Early Parenting in the Context of Trauma
Brenda Jones Harden, PhD, University of Maryland at College Park; Tiffany Martoccio, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore; Lisa Berlin, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Exploring the Impact of Substance Mis-Use, Trauma and Mental Health on Parenting Young Children
Ruth Paris, PhD, Boston University; Anna Herriott, MSW, Boston University
Maternal Drug Use, Trauma History and Infant Disorganized Attachment
Sydney L. Hans, PhD, University of Chicago; Brent Finger, PhD, Montclair State University
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