Maternal sensitivity moderates the association between maternal history of childhood maltreatment and child executive function
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BackgroundExperiences of childhood maltreatment are associated with a variety of negative outcomes throughout individuals' lives as well as disadvantaged cognitive and socioemotional development among their offspring. The mechanisms through which some children show resilience against the intergenerational transmission of risk, however, are less well understood.
ObjectiveThe current study focuses on a proximal parental factor that plays a central role in children's early cognitive development - maternal sensitivity - and examines whether it moderates the association between maternal history of childhood maltreatment and child executive function (EF).
Participants and settingData were collected from a community sample of 139 mothers and their infants (51 % female) recruited from urban areas in Ontario, Canada.
MethodsMaternal maltreatment history was assessed via self-report at child age 3 months. Maternal sensitivity was assessed observationally at child age 8 months, and child executive function was assessed using performance-based measures at child age 3 years. Hypotheses were tested through multiple regression models.
ResultsIn the current sample, maternal maltreatment history was not associated with child EF on average. However, results were consistent with a moderation model, indicating that maternal maltreatment history was associated with lower levels of child EF only when mothers were relatively insensitive.
ConclusionsThe findings indicate the importance of considering sensitive parenting practices as a protective factor for children's cognitive development in the context of more distal risk factors such as mothers' history of childhood maltreatment.
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