Intergenerational associations of adverse and positive maternal childhood experiences with young children’s psychosocial well-being

Background: Maternal adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are believed to have negative consequences on offspring health. However, positive childhood experiences (PCEs) may be concurrent with ACEs, and little is known about how ACEs and PCEs transmit intergenerationally in the context of each other.


Objective: To explore the independent effect of maternal ACEs and PCEs on offspring psychosocial well-being and how ACEs and PCEs are intergenerationally transmitted in their context.


Method: Data were 2587 mother–child dyads in Anhui provinces of China. Mothers retrospectively reported their ACEs and PCEs, as well as provided demographic characteristics and their children’s psychosocial well-being. Logistic regression models were performed to explore the associations of maternal ACEs and PCEs with offspring psychosocial well-being.


Results: Separate unadjusted logistic regression models showed that children with mothers reported high ACEs scores were more likely to have psychosocial challenges (total difficulties and prosocial problems), while children whose mothers reported high PCEs scores were less likely to have psychosocial challenges. When we added maternal ACEs and PCEs to a same model, we found that PCEs slightly neutralised the negative effects of ACEs on offspring’s total difficulties and prosocial problems. When stratified by sample, mothers with high PCE scores and higher maternal ACEs were related with a higher risk of offspring total difficulties; mothers with low levels of ACEs and high PCEs tend to report a lower risk of offspring total difficulties.


Conclusions: Results suggest that PCEs are positively and intergenerationally transmitted. Results suggest that PCEs are positively and intergenerationally transmitted. More programme should be provided to increase maternal PCEs. When preventing the intergenerational transmission of ACEs, specific interventions should be provided to mothers with different levels of PCEs.


  • Positive childhood experiences positively transmit intergenerationally.
  • Stronger relationship between maternal ACEs and risk of offspring total difficulties was observed among mothers with above-average positive childhood experiences scores.
  • A stronger relationship between maternal PCEs and fewer offspring total difficulties was observed among mothers with low adverse maternal childhood experiences scores.
Yantong Zhu, Gengli Zhang & Tokie Anme | 2023
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 14 | 1 | march | 2185414
Childhood Adversities, Children, Intergenerational Effects, Neglect, Offspring, Preschool Students, Quality of Life, Resilience