Population research demonstrates that Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, racial/ethnic discrimination, economic hardship, and community violence. A history of ACEs in parents is associated with depression and parenting stress; depression and parenting stress, in turn, are associated with reduced parental warmth and compromised child outcomes including emotional functioning. The sequential relationship between these constructs may represent a pathway for the intergenerational transmission of adversity. To date, however, this model has been understudied with Latinx families. The present study examines whether parents’ childhood adversity is associated with their children’s emotional functioning (anger and sadness), and whether this relationship is sequentially mediated by maternal depression, parenting stress, and parenting practices. This plausible pathway is considered in a community sample of later-generation Latina mothers, whose experiences of immigration, acculturation and discrimination are unique relative to immigrant Latina mothers.
The sample is comprised of 227 Latina mothers of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children in South Texas. Participants were recruited from local public schools as part of a longitudinal study on early childhood development. The majority (91.5%) identified as later-generation Latina. Almost half (48%) reported living below the federal poverty line. Mothers completed a survey (online or by phone) that included questions about ACEs, depressive symptoms, parenting stress, warmth and harshness in parenting, and their children’s anger and sadness. The present study used data from two time points. Serial mediation analysis was conducted using SPSS PROCESS with 10,000 bootstrap samples.
Descriptive statistics showed that 64% of mothers had 1+ ACEs and 24.7% were above the clinical cut-off for depression. The first model demonstrated a significant effect between parental ACEs and child anger via depression, parenting stress, and parenting practices [indirect effect=0.026, SE=0.015, 95% CI (0.0047, 0.0642)]. There was a significant effect from ACEs to depression [effect=0.52, SE=0.09, p<0.001, 95%CI (0.35, 0.69)], depression to parenting stress [effect=0.35, SE=0.05, p<0.001, 95%CI (0.26, 0.45)], parenting stress to warmth in parenting practices [effect=-0.58, SE=0.19, p=0.003, 95%CI (-0.95, -0.20)], and parenting practices to child anger [effect=-0.24, SE=0.07, p=0.002, 95%CI (-0.38, -0.91)]. In the second model, the effect between parental ACEs and child sadness was not significant.
Conclusion and Implications
The present study with a sample of predominantly later-generation Latina mothers shows that minoritized communities face high risk for ACEs and their deleterious outcomes. ACEs may set in motion developmental trajectories that reach into the next generation by setting the stage for maternal depression, parenting stress, lower parental warmth, and ultimately resulting in challenged emotional functioning in children. These findings are significant because they are consistent with previous work illustrating that Latinx communities may be disproportionately impacted by ACEs due to structural forms of oppression, and that intergenerational transmission of ACEs may exacerbate existing disparities. The discussion will explore ways to interrupt this intergenerational transmission by leveraging protective factors in the Latinx community. Ultimately this knowledge will inform social work practice and policy to mitigate the burdens disproportionately experienced by the Latinx population.