Supporting female survivors of childhood abuse is the way to stop intergenerational abuse from continuing, researchers have found.
Scientists from the University of South Australia say they studied 38,556 mother and child pairs and found that 83 per cent of perpetrators of child abuse were themselves subjected to maltreatment as a child.
University of South Australia’s lead investigator and professor Leonie Segal said mother’s often have a deeper connection with their children compared to fathers and the impacts of abuse can therefore be much greater.
“The role of the mother is absolutely critical compared to the fathers,” Prof Segal said.
“When the mothers were subject to the abuse of their parents, then a lot of things happen, such as mental health issues and drug abuse, which compromise their ability to parent their own children,” Prof Segal said.
Prof Segal said her team were able to pull together data that identified the consequences of child abuse, neglect and in particular how that relates to intergenerational abuse.
“We were trying to determine whether the mothers who had previous child maltreatment contributed to their children being abused and neglected, compared to mothers with no history of previous child abuse and neglect,” Prof Segal said.
“It showed a significant difference,” she said.
Prof Segal said the focused on mothers, was because overall, mothers were involved in the child’s life during the early years where most impact on development is seen.
She said we need to provide support to mothers and provide support to help the mother-child relationship.
“If we could help that child and the mother-child relationship in particular, we could actually stop the distress there and help heal that child and the mother, which will help the child do better in school,” Prof Segal said.
A Child Protection WA spokesman said that culture, family and the community play a role in the developmental process of children.
“Children need stable, sensitive, loving, stimulating relationships and environments in order to reach their potential.”
Experts agree that nature and nurture contribute to every aspect of a child’s development.