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History of Childhood Abuse Linked to Less Emotional Moms

Update Date: May 06, 2013 10:02 AM EDT

Mothers who have suffered childhood abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences are more unwilling to talk to their children about the child's emotional experiences, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that moms who had experienced their own childhood traumas exhibited ongoing "traumatic avoidance symptoms," which is characterized by an unwillingness to address thoughts, emotions, sensations or memories of those traumas.

The study presented at the Society for Research in Child Development 2013 Biennial Meeting in Seattle involved 44 low-income mothers who had suffered past childhood traumas.

"Traumatic avoidance symptoms have been shown to have a negative impact on the cognitive and emotional development of children," researcher Kristin Valentino, Notre Dame assistant professor of psychology and a specialist in the development of at-risk and maltreated children, said in a news release

"This research is important because it identifies a mechanism through which we can understand how maternal trauma history relates to her ability to effectively interact with her child. This finding also has implications for intervention work, since avoidance that is used as a coping mechanism is likely to further impair psychological functioning," Valentino added.

In a previous study, Valentino revealed that maltreating parents, many of who had suffered childhood trauma, could successfully be taught to use more elaborative and emotion-rich reminiscing with their pre-school aged children. Researchers said this was then linked to a boost in children's subsequent cognitive abilities in a number of areas such as memory, language and literacy development.

The findings are published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

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