Parental childhood maltreatment and the later-life relationship with parents

Jooyoung Kong, Lynn M. Martire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The aims of the current study were to examine the long-term effects of childhood maltreatment on current relationships with parents and whether the quality of current relationships with parents mediates the associations between childhood maltreatment and psychological health in late adulthood. Using 2 decades of longitudinal data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, multilevel structural equation modeling was employed to examine the associations between reports of childhood maltreatment, aspects of current relationships with parents (i.e., perceived closeness, contact frequency, and exchange of social support), and psychological well-being/distress of adult children. Key results indicated that reports of maternal childhood abuse and neglect predicted lower levels of perceived closeness with aging mothers, which were subsequently associated with reduced psychological well-being of adult children. We did not find evidence of mediation between reports of paternal childhood abuse/neglect, current relationships with fathers, and psychological outcomes. Our findings suggest a significant linkage between childhood and later-life intergenerational relationships. Adults who were maltreated by their mother as children may continue to experience challenges in this relationship. Further research is needed to examine how these past and current relational dynamics affect caregiving experiences and outcomes. In addition, when intervening with adults with a history of childhood maltreatment, practitioners should evaluate contemporary relationship quality with the abusive mother and help address any unresolved emotional issues with the parent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-911
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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