The intergenerational transmission of trauma in refugee and asylum seeker families: Sex differences and the underlying mechanism
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Object. This study focuses on the impact of parental PTS symptoms on the development of their young children in refugee and asylum seeker families. Parental PTS symptoms have been considered a risk factor for child development, but the mechanisms underlying this transmission are unclear. The present study analyzed the mediating influence of the parent-child interaction (e.g., Disconnected and Extreme Insensitive Parenting) on the relation between paternal and maternal PTS symptoms and the infant' s psychosocial functioning. Measures. Eighty parent-child dyads, consisting of 29 fathers, 51 mothers, and 59 young children (18-40 months) participated. Parents' posttraumatic stress was measured with the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ; Mollica, McInnes, Poole & Thor, 1998), parent-child interaction was covered by the Disconnected and extremely Insensitive Parenting measurement (DIP; Out, Cyr, Pijlman, Beijersbergen, Bakersmans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2009) and infant' s psychosocial functioning was assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL 1Â½-5; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000). Results. Disconnected and Extreme Insensitive Parenting was not found in refugees and asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Neither did fathers and mothers differ in quality interaction. However, the results showed that higher levels of maternal posttraumatic stress symptoms were associated with a higher level of psychosocial problems of the children. Only a non-significant trend was found in the relation between the paternal posttraumatic stress and the psychosocial functioning of the child. Except for a relation between maternal PTS symptoms and withdraw and neglect (a sub-dimension of the DIP), no other associations between parental PTS symptoms and the DIP were found. Besides, the results did not show a significant influence of the DIP on the psychosocial functioning of the child. So it appeared that the DIP did not function as a mediator between parental PTS symptoms and children' s psychosocial functioning. Conclusions. The results indicate that, despite the rather positive results, children of refugees and asylum seekers are at risk. The posttraumatic symptoms of the parent are associated with an increase in the psychosocial disfunctioning of the child, even though not mediated by the Disconnected and Extreme Insensitive Parenting. This could be explained by the possibility that most of the refugees and asylum seekers traumatic experiences are not attachment related. The present study showed the striking result that fathers and mothers are equal in the quality of parent-child interaction, while there is a greater effect of posttraumatic disturbances of the mother than those of the father on the extreme insensitive parenting style and on the psychosocial functioning of the child. Mechanisms such as compensation and withdrawal might raise the quality of involvement of the father with the child, and reduce the negative impact of stress resulting from trauma and migration. Future research should be dedicated to find a difference between non-attachment trauma' s and attachment trauma' s, to focus on an overprotective way of parenting, and to analyse the protective role of the father in this high-risk situation of the child.