Sexuality & Couples

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D


Did you know that having experienced different types of childhood interpersonal trauma in childhood is linked to more parenting stress through altered self-capacities?

Our study investigated the association between cumulative childhood interpersonal trauma (cumulative childhood trauma, CCT) (e.g., violence, neglect, bullying) and parenting stress levels in couples who had just had a new child. Parenting stress represents the gap perceived by parents between their own resources and the demands of their children. Documented mainly in mothers, this subject deserves to be studied further in a sample of couples. Relying on the Self-Trauma model (Briere, 1996), we were interested in the role of altered self-capacities as explanatory mechanisms in the association between CCT and parenting stress. Self-capacities refer to affect dysregulation, identity disturbances, and the tendency to be involved in interpersonal conflict. The main objective of this study was to determine: 1) Do parents who have experienced CCT report more stress? 2) Do altered self-capacities explain this greater vulnerability to parenting stress?

A sample of 421 mixed-gender couples was recruited from the general population using random selection, in collaboration with the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). Parents answered online questionnaires during the first months following the birth of their new child.

What do the results say?

The results first confirm that the more a parent has experienced a high number of childhood interpersonal traumas, the higher their parenting stress is during the first months postpartum. Our results then show that altered self-capacities partially explain this association between parents' CCT and their parenting stress. Specifically, CCT is linked to more difficulty regulating one's emotions, a less stable and less well-defined identity, and more conflicts with others. In return, emotional and identity difficulties are associated with an increase in parenting stress, both in mothers and fathers. In addition, mothers' tendency to be involved in interpersonal conflicts explained the link between her own CCT experience and her partner's parenting stress.

These results show that self-capacities, via different pathways, explain how CCT affects parenting stress within the couple. It therefore appears relevant to target self-capacities in CCT survivors in order to prevent high levels of parenting stress and increase their well-being during the postpartum period.

For more details, we invite you to consult the complete article:

Rassart, C. A., Paradis, A., Bergeron, S., & Godbout, N. (2022). Cumulative childhood interpersonal trauma and parenting stress: The role of self-capacities disturbances among couples welcoming a newborn. Child Abuse & Neglect, 129, 105638.

Funding: This work was funded by doctoral fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et Culture, granted to Camille Andrée Rassart, by Insight grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, granted to Natacha Godbout, and finally by a Research Scholar grant from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, granted to Natacha Godbout.

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