Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2236–2243 | Cite as

Maternal-Child Dyads of Functioning: the Intergenerational Impact of Violence Against Women on Children

  • Judith McFarlane
  • Lene Symes
  • Brenda K. Binder
  • John Maddoux
  • Rene Paulson


Violence against women is a global epidemic with potential consequences of injury, illness, and death. Children exposed to the violence may also be impacted with functional impairments. Little is known of the inter-generational impact of violence experienced by the mother from an intimate partner on functioning of her children. No dyad analysis was found in the literature. To examine the inter-generational impact of violence against women on the behavioral functioning of children, 300 mothers reporting intimate partner abuse and one randomly chosen child, age 18 months to 16 years of age; were evaluated for borderline and clinical diagnostic levels of problem behaviors. Linear, Logistic, and Ordinal regression models were applied. Mothers’ problem behavior scores were significantly related to children’s problem behavior scores (internalizing r = 0.611, externalizing r = 0.494, total problems r = 0.662, all ps < 0.001). Mothers who reported clinical and borderline clinical internalized problems (i.e., depression, anxiety) were 7 times more likely to have children with the same problems and mothers with borderline clinical and clinical external problems (i.e., aggression, hostility) were 4.5 times more likely to have children with the same external problems. These dyadic analyses provide evidence of a direct relationship of maternal functioning on child behavioral functioning. Intervention strategies to decrease internalizing maternal behavioral problems, such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder, and/or externalizing problems, such as hostility and aggression, can be expected to have a pass through, secondary impact on the behavioral functioning of children. Awareness of the relationship between intimate partner violence against mothers and child behavioral function can support interventions that decrease the distress experienced by mothers and their children, interrupt intergenerational transmission of abusive behaviors, and promote better maternal child functioning.


Intimate partner violence Mother–child dyads Intergenerational 



We appreciate the unflagging assistance and support of the administrators and staff of the five shelters in Harris County and the Chief and staff of The Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Family Criminal Law Division. We acknowledge funding by The Houston Endowment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith McFarlane
    • 1
  • Lene Symes
    • 1
  • Brenda K. Binder
    • 1
  • John Maddoux
    • 2
  • Rene Paulson
    • 2
  1. 1.Nelda C. Stark College of NursingTexas Woman’s UniversityHoustonTexas
  2. 2.Office of ResearchTexas Woman’s UniversityDentonTexas

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