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Childhood Trauma and Relationship Satisfaction Among Parents: A Dyadic Perspective on the Role of Mindfulness and Experiential Avoidance

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Childhood cumulative trauma (CCT) has consistently been associated with relationship dissatisfaction in adulthood. Early parenthood is a challenging context where partners’ vulnerabilities, such as CCT history, tend to be exacerbated and further decrease relationship satisfaction. However, dyadic studies are lacking and the mechanisms that underlie this association in coparents remain unclear. An increasing body of literature supports dispositional mindfulness as an explanatory mechanism of this relationship, as it was negatively linked to CCT and associated with higher relationship satisfaction. Experiential avoidance, a maladaptive self-regulatory strategy commonly used by CCT survivors, looks promising in explaining how coparents’ lower mindfulness brings about relational dissatisfaction. Empirical literature highlights mindfulness as a predictor of experiential avoidance, which in turn is associated with relationship dissatisfaction. Using a dyadic perspective, this longitudinal study aimed to assess whether associations between CCT and relationship satisfaction were serially mediated by mindfulness and experiential avoidance in couples following the birth of a child.


A randomly selected sample of 529 parental couples completed self-report questionnaires at two time points, 6 months apart. Path analyses based on the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model were performed.


Path analyses showed a significant serial mediation from CCT to relationship satisfaction, sequentially through lower mindfulness and higher experiential avoidance, while accounting for relationship satisfaction at Time 1. Significant structural paths and indirect effects confirmed partners’ interinfluences.


Findings suggest that mindfulness and experiential avoidance are key factors to explore in parental couples facing relationship issues associated with childhood trauma.


This study was not preregistered.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.


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This work was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant (# 435–2017-1015), and a Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant (# 436528).

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Authors and Affiliations



FMH: writing – original draft preparation, reviewing and editing, visualization, data curation, formal analysis, investigation. AP: project administration, supervision, conceptualization, formal analysis, funding acquisition, writing – reviewing and editing. MED: writing – reviewing and editing. JD: writing – reviewing and editing. NG: project administration, supervision, conceptualization, formal analysis, funding acquisition, resources, writing – reviewing and editing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Natacha Godbout.

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Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Morissette Harvey, F., Paradis, A., Daspe, MÈ. et al. Childhood Trauma and Relationship Satisfaction Among Parents: A Dyadic Perspective on the Role of Mindfulness and Experiential Avoidance. Mindfulness 15, 310–326 (2024).

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