Background: Research has indicated that parental trauma affects adults’ parenting styles. However, most studies have used composite trauma scores as predictors of broad parenting categories, rather than examining relationships between specific trauma symptoms and parents’ specific parenting behaviors. Additionally, all but a few studies have focused on mothers’ reports of trauma and parenting, rather than examining fathers’ data as well.
Goal: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between fathers’ and mothers’ specific trauma symptoms and their own parenting behaviors.
Objectives: This study sought to further the literature of the field by: 1) including data from fathers in the study of the relationship between trauma symptoms and parenting practices 2) examining how specific trauma symptoms relate to specific parenting practices, rather than using composite trauma scores and composite scales of parenting practices 3) examining whether the associations between specific trauma symptoms and parenting behaviors are the same for fathers and mothers
Approach: Using data collected from 165 fathers and mothers, eleven three-step, measured variable path analyses were conducted using fathers’ and mothers’ trauma symptoms as predictors of parenting behaviors. Five subscales from the Trauma Symptoms Inventory (TSI) were used as predictors of eleven sub-factors of parenting in the Parenting Practices Questionnaire (PPQ).
Results: Results indicate that the link between parents’ trauma symptoms and their specific parenting behaviors is dependent on the specific trauma symptoms exhibited and, in some cases, on the parent’s gender.
Importance to public health: This study provides evidence that the nature of the association between trauma symptoms and parenting behaviors is nuanced and may be masked through the use of composite measures of either variable. Furthermore, the association between some of the trauma symptoms and parenting behaviors is gender specific. This understanding can assist family clinicians to more accurately and effectively treat families who present with histories of trauma.