Three main hypotheses were tested: a) Childhood exposure to violence would be associated with greater abusive and neglectful parenting behaviors; b) Living with older parent(s) would mitigate the negative effects of childhood exposure to violence on exhibiting abusive and neglectful parenting practices; and, c) The protective effect of living with older parent(s) would be more pronounced among single parents.
Methods: The current study conducted secondary data analysis using data from the Wisconsin Families Study that surveyed parents living in Milwaukee County in Wisconsin who were at risk for child maltreatment. The final analytic sample included 727 respondents who were low-income parents of young children, most of whom were African American women (93.7%) with, on average, a high school diploma. We estimated a series of ordinary least squares regression models to test the hypotheses.
Results: Our findings indicated that parents who reported a history of childhood abuse, neglect, and witnessing domestic violence showed more frequent use of psychological aggression, physical aggression, and neglectful behaviors against their children. Living with older parents played a protective role in mitigating the negative effect of childhood maltreatment on later parenting practices: Living with older parents significantly moderated the association between childhood abuse and exhibiting neglectful parenting (b = -0.11, p < .05) and the association between witnessing domestic violence and psychological aggression (b = -0.33, p < .05). We also found that this protective effect of living with older parents was more pronounced among single parents (b = -0.35, p < .001).
Conclusions and Implications: Our results suggest that the risk of the intergenerational transmission of violence may decrease in three-generation households, which was especially true among single parents. Such parents may relieve their parenting stress or economic burden by living with their aging parents with whom they can share resources and/or get help with childcare. Our findings inform practitioners and policymakers that parents with socio-economic disadvantages may heavily rely on a limited informal social network such as their parents as their major or sole source of social support and resources. Helping the parents diversify and widen their social networks and resources can reduce the concentrated burden and stress in the family, preventing potential conflicts, as well as adequately addressing their specific needs and concerns. Future research is needed to scrutinize factors or contexts that are associated with the benefits of multi-generational living arrangements in family violence.