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Mom’s PTSD May Endanger Child

Moms PTSD May Place Child in Danger Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in mothers may lead to an increased risk of child maltreatment.

Researchers say the potential for maltreatment is beyond that associated with maternal depression.

Experts have known that the mental state of a caregiver in an important risk factor for child maltreatment and maternal depression is associated with an increased use of corporal punishment and physical abuse of children.

However, until recently, research on maternal depression and maltreatment risk has largely ignored the fact that depression and PTSD often occur together.

Now, the National Comorbidity Survey suggests that 24.7 percent of depressed women have PTSD and that 48.4 of women with PTSD have depression.

In a study published by JAMA Pediatrics, Claude M. Chemtob, Ph.D., and colleagues examined the association of probable maternal depression, PTSD and comorbid PTSD and depression with the risk for child maltreatment and parenting stress and with the number of traumatic events that preschool children are exposed to.

The study included 97 mothers of children ages 3 to 5 years old. About half of the children were boys.

The children of mothers with PTSD (with a mean number of events the child was exposed to at 5) or with comorbid PTSD and depression (3.5 events) experienced more traumatic events than those of mothers with depression (1.2 events) or neither disorder (1.4 events).

When PTSD symptom severity scores were high, psychological aggression and the number of traumatic events children experienced increased.

Depressive symptom severity scores also were associated with the risk for psychological aggression and exposure to traumatic events only when PTSD symptom severity scores were low, according to the study results.

Researchers found that mothers who had both PTSD and depression were more likely to physically and psychologically abuse their children.

“Mothers in the comorbid group reported the highest levels of physically and psychologically abusive behaviors and overall parenting stress. Although not statistically significant, mothers with depression alone showed a trend toward endorsing more physically abusive and neglectful parenting behaviors,” the study concludes.

“Given the high comorbidity between PTSD and depression, these findings suggest the importance of measuring PTSD symptoms when considering the relationship between depression and increased risk for child maltreatment.”

Source: The JAMA Network Journals

Mom’s PTSD May Endanger Child

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mom’s PTSD May Endanger Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 3 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.