Skip to main content

Pathways from Childhood Maltreatment to Unsupportive Emotion Socialization: Implications for Children’s Emotional Inhibition


Adults who have experienced child maltreatment report problems with emotion regulation (ER) and parenting difficulties, which have been associated with maladaptation in the next generation. However, parental emotion socialization is understudied in survivors of child maltreatment. The aim of the present study was to examine whether childhood polyvictimization would influence parental ER skills and parents’ use of unsupportive contingencies in response to anger, sadness, and anxiety. A secondary aim was to determine whether these variables would predict children’s emotional inhibition. Parents (n = 175) of children between the ages of 8 and 12 participated in an online study. Participants completed self-report measures assessing their child maltreatment history; their regulation and socialization of anger, sadness, and anxiety; and a measure of their child’s emotional inhibition. A sequential mediation model revealed that childhood polyvictimization predicted lower levels of parental ER skills, which in turn, increased the likelihood of parents reporting unsupportive contingencies. Further, parents’ use of unsupportive contingencies predicted higher levels of emotional inhibition in children. The present study provides preliminary evidence to support the relationship between a history of child maltreatment, parents’ use of unsupportive contingencies, and emotional inhibition in the next generation. Practitioners working with parents who have been maltreated should focus on enhancing parental ER in order to help parents scaffold healthy emotional development in their children.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


Download references


Sarah Cabecinha-Alati is supported by the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This research was also supported by a McGill Social Sciences and Humanities Grant awarded to Tina Montreuil.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tina Montreuil.

Ethics declarations

Declarations of Interest


Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cabecinha-Alati, S., Langevin, R., Kern, A. et al. Pathways from Childhood Maltreatment to Unsupportive Emotion Socialization: Implications for Children’s Emotional Inhibition. J Fam Viol 36, 1033–1043 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Child maltreatment
  • Polyvictimization
  • Emotion regulation
  • Parental emotion socialization