Zvara, B., Mills-Koonce, W. R., Cox, M. J. & the Family Life Project Key Investigators (in press). Maternal childhood sexual trauma and Early Parenting: Prenatal and Postnatal Associations. Infant and Child Development.
Existing research suggests that approximately 19% of females experience childhood sexual trauma (CST). Little is known, however, about the parenting behaviour of mothers who have experienced CST. Using propensity-matched controls, the present study examines prenatal psychosocial distress, postnatal depressive symptomatology, and caregiving behaviours of women reporting CST at or before the age of 14. Data for these analyses were obtained from mother reports and from observational protocols from a longitudinal study of low-income, rural families. Propensity score methodology was used to create a contrast group matched on family of origin variables in an effort to isolate and examine the long-term associations of CST beyond the effects of other childhood adversities such as poverty. Study findings provide evidence that women with CST histories report greater prenatal psychosocial distress compared to women without trauma histories. Findings further provide evidence for a spillover process from prenatal distress to the broader caregiving system including less sensitive parenting through postnatal depressive symptoms for women with CST histories. These results highlight the importance of screening for CST and psychosocial distress and depression prenatally. Interventions for women with CST histories and directions for future study are proposed.