Newswise: Child abuse and trauma are related to many health problems in adulthood. New research from the University of Georgia suggests that a history of child abuse could have negative ramifications for children of people who experienced childhood abuse or neglect.
Teaching your children to manage their emotions is an integral part of parenting. For people who have experienced child abuse, this can become a difficult task. People who are often abused as children may have difficulty identifying their emotions and applying strategies to regulate them. This difficulty, in turn, can impair your children’s emotional development.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, found that parents with a history of child abuse or neglect often had difficulty accepting negative emotions, controlling impulsive responses, and using emotional regulation strategies, among other issues. emotions. In addition, many of these parents with emotional regulation difficulties transmitted this trait to their children.
“Parents implicitly and explicitly teach their children to regulate their emotions. I’ve worked with young children, and when you teach them about their emotions, you can see how malleable this skill is, ”said Kimberly Osborne, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. “It’s much harder to train someone to manage their emotions later in life. If we can understand the transmission pathways and the risks of regulatory difficulties later in life, we can use this research to prevent and equipping people with better skills so that the pattern does not continue “.
Measure emotional regulation
The study focused on 101 young people and their primary caregivers. Parents were given a questionnaire to measure child abandonment, trauma, and abuse, along with a survey that measured their own ability to control their emotions. The researchers measured the variability in children’s heart rate, an established measure of emotional regulation, at rest and during stressful activity using an electrocardiogram while their parents watched.
Participating women showed emotional regulation difficulties in stressful situations, regardless of their parents ’history of childhood trauma or emotion regulation skills. At the same time, boys were specifically more vulnerable to emotional regulation difficulties when their parents also struggled with emotion regulation.
“I think this talks about the way our society socializes emotion in boys versus girls,” Osborne said. “We don’t have data to check it out, so I’m pulling more from theory and past research, but I think girls get more training on how to regulate their emotions from teachers, older siblings and classmates than Therefore, if boys do not receive this from their parents, they may be at greater risk of self-regulation.
In particular, parents who reported that they were unable to put aside negative emotions to pursue their goals, such as doing work despite being in a bad mood, were more likely to have children who also had difficulty regulating. their emotions during stressful experiences.
Modeling healthy responses to stress
While having a history of childhood trauma does not predispose a person to pass on their experiences to their children, Osborne said it is something to keep in mind. Modeling habits such as taking a break before reacting to stressful situations to assess how you feel can help teach children how to respond to challenges.
“From a very young age, the best we can do is reflect on the child what he or she is experiencing,” Osborne said. “If you see a kid crying, instead of saying,‘ Oh, I’m so sorry. What happened?’ you can say, “You’re crying. I can see you’re sad. What made you sad? That A defines their emotion, so it helps them identify it, and B, encourages them to think about what happened and tell you in your own words what caused the emotion.
“It’s similar to having a parent with alcoholism, maybe you’ve learned to stay away from alcohol and want to teach your kids to do the same. It’s important to tell them, ‘We tend not to regulate well. our emotions, so we will be controlling them together to make sure that this does not become something more harmful for you ‘”.
Co-authors of this study include UGA researchers Margaret O’Brien Caughy and Assaf Oshri, and Erin Duprey of the University of Rochester Medical Center. This study was funded by the National Center for the Advancement of Translation Sciences of the National Institutes of Health and partially supported through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
This version is available online at https://news.uga.edu/parents-abused-as-children-may-pass-on-emotional-issues/