Maternal adverse childhood experiences, executive function & emotional availability in mother-child dyads
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BACKGROUND: Maternal adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with difficulties in parent-child relationships; however, current research has primarily used cross-sectional designs. Parent and child behavior may be differentially affected by ACEs as children develop and caregiving demands change. Furthermore, diminished executive function (EF) is associated with both ACEs and parenting difficulties and may be a mechanism underlying the intergenerational effects of ACEs. OBJECTIVE: This study examined longitudinal associations between maternal ACEs, maternal EF, and patterns of change in maternal and child emotional availability (EA). PARTICIPANTS: Mother-child dyads (N = 114) participated in five assessments over a 5-year period. METHODS: Maternal ACEs were measured retrospectively at 3 months, maternal EF was assessed at 8 months, and mother-child interactions were videotaped at 18, 36 and 60 months postpartum. Multilevel modelling was used to model growth curves. RESULTS: Maternal EA did not significantly change, while child EA increased from 18 to 60 months postpartum. Maternal ACEs were negatively associated with maternal and child EA at 18 months postpartum; this effect was not significant at 60 months postpartum. In contrast, there was a persistent, positive effect of maternal EF on EA trajectories. Maternal EF did not mediate the association between ACEs and EA. There were also significant within-dyad associations between maternal and child EA. CONCLUSIONS: The effects of maternal ACEs on parenting are not necessarily persistent. Findings also support sustained relations between maternal EF and mother-child interactions across early childhood, suggesting the utility of EF as an intervention target.
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