Emotional qualities of the parent-child relationship are thought to influence the offspring's risk for perpetrating child maltreatment in adulthood. The current study examined whether having grown up in an enmeshed or disengaged mother-child relationship, hence a relationship characterized by extremes on the continuum of emotional distance, increased the offspring's risk of child maltreatment perpetration in a sample of 178 undergraduate students attending a large rural public university. A history of extreme emotional distance experienced with mothers significantly increased the grown offspring's risk of maltreatment perpetration, as measured by two risk indicators. Emotional reactivity, but not empathy, mediated this effect for the offspring's child abuse potential. Extreme amounts of emotional distance within the mother-child relationship also predicted the offspring's child abuse potential over and above maltreatment occurring in that relationship, whereas maltreatment rather than emotional distance predicted the offspring's unrealistic expectations of children. Clinical implications are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science