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.