Methods: Baseline data collected from parents participating in a community-based parent-child dyadic program were analyzed for this study. Measures included parent’s trauma history (Life Stressor Checklist-Revised), four domains of family protective factors (Protective Factors Survey), and the dysfunctional parent-child interaction (DPCI) subscale of the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form.
Results: The sample included 77 parents (mean age=30.7 years; female=76) most of whom identified as ethnically Central American, with a dyad child between 2-84 months (mean=34.7) and largely low-income (75% reporting household income <$25,000). Parents reported having experienced 10 traumatic life events, on average, including serious financial problems and physical and emotional abuse. Pearson’s correlation results showed a positive association between the outcome (DPCI) and parental trauma, and negative associations between DPCI and three protective factors, family functioning and resiliency, social support, and nurturance and attachment. Parental trauma was negatively associated with social support, and nurturance and attachment. A multivariate regression analysis showed that parental trauma predicted higher levels of DPCI (B=0.49, SE=0.21, p=0.02, R2=0.08, df=1,71, F=5.78). Among the protective factors, the nurturance and attachment factor fully mediated the relationship between parental trauma and DPCI (total effect size=0.49, SE=0.20, p=0.015; direct effect size=0.24, SE=0.17, p=0.15; indirect effect size=0.248, SE=0.13, p=0.047).
Conclusions and Implications: Results suggest that higher nurturance and attachment in the parent-child relationship acts as a “buffer” for parents despite parents’ trauma history, and has a protective effect on the relationship leading to less perceptions of negative parent-child interactions. Increasing levels of nurturance and attachment may help mitigate the impact of parental trauma on stressful parent-child interactions. Interventions that focus on parenting skills aimed at strengthening attachment with their young children may impact positive changes in the parent-child relationship and parenting stress.