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The Intergenerational Transmission of Maladaptive Parenting and its Impact on Child Mental Health: Examining Cross-Cultural Mediating Pathways and Moderating Protective Factors

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Abstract

Using a sample of 1338 families from 12 cultural groups in 9 nations, we examined whether retrospectively remembered Generation 1 (G1) parent rejecting behaviors were passed to Generation 2 (G2 parents), whether such intergenerational transmission led to higher Generation 3 (G3 child) externalizing and internalizing behavior at age 13, and whether such intergenerational transmission could be interrupted by parent participation in parenting programs or family income increases of > 5%. Utilizing structural equation modeling, we found that the intergenerational transmission of parent rejection that is linked with higher child externalizing and internalizing problems occurs across cultural contexts. However, the magnitude of transmission is greater in cultures with higher normative levels of parent rejection. Parenting program participation broke this intergenerational cycle in fathers from cultures high in normative parent rejection. Income increases appear to break this intergenerational cycle in mothers from most cultures, regardless of normative levels of parent rejection. These results tentatively suggest that bolstering protective factors such as parenting program participation, income supplementation, and (in cultures high in normative parent rejection) legislative changes and other population-wide positive parenting information campaigns aimed at changing cultural parenting norms may be effective in breaking intergenerational cycles of maladaptive parenting and improving child mental health across multiple generations.

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Funding

This research has been funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant RO1-HD054805, Fogarty International Center Grant RO3-TW008141, and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse grant P30 DA023026, the Intramural Research Program of the NIH/NICHD, USA, and an International Research Fellowship at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), London, UK, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No 695300-HKADeC-ERC-2015-AdG).

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Correspondence to W. Andrew Rothenberg.

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Rothenberg, W.A., Lansford, J.E., Tirado, L.M.U. et al. The Intergenerational Transmission of Maladaptive Parenting and its Impact on Child Mental Health: Examining Cross-Cultural Mediating Pathways and Moderating Protective Factors. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 54, 870–890 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-021-01311-6

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