Not all children who experience child maltreatment become adults who abuse or neglect their own children. Intergenerational patterns of child abuse and neglect are complex and nuanced. It is important for child welfare practitioners and others who work with children, youth, and families to understand this issue. On this page, find resources that explore what is known about intergenerational patterns of maltreatment and intergenerational cycles of abuse.
Contributing Factors to Child Abuse and Neglect: Possible Adult Contributing Factors
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Describes contributing factors that could make a parent or caregiver more likely to abuse children. These include a history of being abused, stress, substance use, mental health issues, and other factors.
Environmental Factors and the Intergenerational Transmission of Child Maltreatment
Prevent Child Abuse America
Explores issues related to the intergenerational cycle of child maltreatment and how to disrupt the cycle.
Intergenerational Abuse: It’s Time to Break the Cycle
Starts With Youth (2020)
Examines intergenerational patterns of abuse, why they occur, how it impacts children and adults, and what can be done to break the cycle.
Intergenerational Effects of Childhood Maltreatment: A Systematic Review of the Parenting Practices of Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse, Neglect, and Violence
Greene, Haisley, Wallace, & Ford
Clinical Psychology Review
Presents a study on how child maltreatment may influence parenting and finds that parents who experienced physical abuse or witnessed violence during childhood are at increased risk for engaging in abusive or neglectful parenting. The study also showed that adults who experienced multiple types or repeated instances of victimization are at greatest risk for perpetrating child abuse.
Intergenerational Transmission of Child Abuse: Predictors of Child Abuse Potential Among Racially Diverse Women Residing in Domestic Violence Shelters
Anderson, Edwards, Silver, & Johnson (2018)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 85
Analyzes risk factors for perpetrating child abuse in women including a history of childhood abuse, psychiatric distress, and exposure to intimate partner violence.
Intergenerational Transmission of Child Maltreatment (PDF - 1,516 KB)
Schelbe & Geiger (2017)
Discusses the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment and offers information on frameworks, research studies, risk factors, and prevention and intervention strategies.
Describes two-generation approaches being used to combine parent and child interventions to create a legacy of economic security and well-being that passes from generation to generation.
Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit
National Conference of State Legislatures (2018)
Explains the two-generation approach to help families break negative cycles that improves outcomes for parents, children, and whole families.
What Is Intergenerational Trauma?
Defines intergenerational trauma and discusses how to identify intergenerational trauma as well as its causes, treatments, and healing.