Abstract: Investigating Adverse Childhood Experiences and Parenting Behaviors: The Role of Positive Childhood Experiences As a Moderator (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Investigating Adverse Childhood Experiences and Parenting Behaviors: The Role of Positive Childhood Experiences As a Moderator

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Marissa Abbott, PhD, SRCD/AAAS Policy Fellow, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Background and Purpose: Previous research suggests that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to poor health, well-being, and select parenting outcomes in adulthood. However, little work examines the relationship between ACEs and engagement in parenting behaviors associated with child maltreatment risk. Existing research also fails to account for the influence of positive childhood experiences (PCEs) in an adversity context, as these experiences likely co-occur with ACEs and may interact to confer protective effects that impact how an adult responds in the face of their parenting challenges.

This paper uses an intergenerational transmission framework to examine the relationship between ACEs and psychological and physical aggression and neglect-related parenting behaviors in adulthood. Furthermore, this paper examines if PCEs operate through a resiliency framework to moderate the relationship between ACEs and parenting behaviors. Understanding if PCEs moderate ACE and parenting behavior relationships is vital to identifying resilient pathways that prevent or minimize the transfer of ACEs from parents to their children.

Methods: The study used baseline survey data from a randomized control trial of an economic intervention designed to prevent child maltreatment, Project Getting Access to Income Now (GAIN), to assess the relationships between ACEs, PCEs, and parenting behaviors. ACEs were measured with an iteration of the adverse childhood experiences scale. PCEs were measured using a condensed version of the childhood caregiving environment scale. Parenting behaviors were measured using adapted subscales form the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale.

OLS regression was used to explore direct effects between ACEs or PCEs and parenting behaviors controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. Outcome variables were standardized to facilitate interpretation and comparison across models. Subgroup moderation analyses were used to determine whether the relationship between ACEs and parenting behaviors depends upon the level of PCEs. The subgroup analysis approach compared the difference in regression coefficients or the slope between subgroups in contrast to testing a traditional interaction variable. This approach helps pinpoint the various combinations of ACEs and PCEs that contribute to adverse parenting.

Results: Most respondents were between the ages of 25 and 44 and identified as Non-Hispanic Black and female. Results suggest that high parental ACEs and low parental PCEs were separately associated with increased psychological and physical aggression and neglect-related parenting behaviors. There was also some support for the moderation hypotheses, with higher levels of PCEs contributing to less neglect-related parenting behavior. Having higher ACEs contributed more strongly to increases in psychological and physical aggression.

Conclusions and Implications: Results suggest value in measuring both ACEs and PCEs in parents. Identifying PCEs as an indicator of resiliency may point to adaptive strategies that can be harnessed and strengthened through intervention efforts to assist in challenging parenting situations. If ACE screening efforts fail to account for PCEs, providers and researchers may miss essential information that has the potential to improve child and family well-being.