Skip to main content
Log in

Quality of the Parent–Child Relationship as a Moderator of Witnessing Violence and Youth Trauma Symptoms

Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Traumatic event exposure affects two in every three adolescents in the United States and there is the potential for numerous deleterious effects including higher levels of youth depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and emotional and behavioral problems. Witnessing violence is one of the more common experiences associated with trauma exposure. Despite the ample research on mental health outcomes associated with witnessing violence, less is known about the extent to which parent–child relationships play a role in youth mental health outcomes when youth are exposed to violence. With a clinically relevant, diverse sample of 806 youth ages 12 years old who experienced maltreatment or were at risk of being maltreated, we tested hypotheses that the parent–child relationship quality would moderate the associations between witnessing violence and youth mental health outcomes. Results supported hypotheses for youths’ symptoms of anxiety, depression, dissociation, and posttraumatic stress. The study contributes to the trauma literature by determining that the quality of the parent–child relationship moderated the effects of witnessing violence on trauma outcomes.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Data Availability

The dataset used for the current study is publicly available but requires a licensing agreement for each user. We are not authorized to share the dataset. The Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) dataset is managed by a third party. The LONGSCAN dataset can be requested from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. Researchers will be able to access these data in the same manner as the authors. The authors did not have any special access privileges.


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lexie Unhjem.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

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

This document includes data from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN), a project funded by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (ACYF/DHHS). The data were collected by the LONGSCAN Consortium and have been provided by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. The information and opinions expressed herein reflect solely the position of the author(s). Nothing herein should be construed to indicate the support or endorsement of its content by ACYF/DHHS.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Unhjem, L., McWey, L.M., Ledermann, T. et al. Quality of the Parent–Child Relationship as a Moderator of Witnessing Violence and Youth Trauma Symptoms. Journ Child Adol Trauma 16, 869–879 (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: