University of Oulu

Airikka, A., Lahti-Pulkkinen, M., Tuovinen, S. et al. Maternal exposure to childhood maltreatment and mental and behavioral disorders in children. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2022).

Maternal exposure to childhood maltreatment and mental and behavioral disorders in children

Saved in:
Author: Airikka, Aino1,2; Lahti-Pulkkinen, Marius1,2,3; Tuovinen, Soile1,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Haartmaninkatu 3, P.O. Box 21, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
2The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
3University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
4Welfare Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
5Department of Translational Research in Psychiatry, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany
6Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
7Medical and Clinical Genetics, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), Helsinki, Finland
8Helsinki Institute of Life Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
9Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Center for Child, Adolescent and Maternal Health Research, Tampere University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
10PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
11Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
12Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University for Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-06


Exposure to maltreatment in childhood is associated with lifelong risk of mental and behavioral disorders. Whether the effects extend to the next generation remains unclear. We examined whether maternal exposure to childhood abuse and neglect in her own childhood were associated with mental and behavioral disorders and psychiatric symptoms in her children, and whether maternal lifetime mental and behavioral disorders or lower education level mediated or added to the effects. Mothers (n = 2252) of the Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction cohort study completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and reported on their education and their 7.0–12.1-year-old children’s psychiatric symptoms using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. We identified lifetime mental and behavioral disorder diagnoses for the mothers and diagnoses for their children from birth (2006–2010) until 8.4–12.8 years (12/31/2018) from Care Register for Health Care. We found that maternal exposure to childhood abuse, but not neglect, was associated with higher hazards of mental and behavioral disorders (hazard ratio 1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.06–1.37) in children. These associations were partially mediated by maternal mental and behavioral disorders and education (proportion of effect size mediated: 23.8% and 15.1%, respectively), which together with maternal exposure to childhood abuse added to the hazard of mental and behavioral disorders in children. Similar associations were found for maternal exposure to childhood abuse and neglect with psychiatric symptoms in children. To conclude, maternal exposure to childhood maltreatment is associated with mental and behavioral disorders and psychiatric symptoms in children. Our findings call for interventions to prevent intergenerational transmission.

see all

Series: European child & adolescent psychiatry
ISSN: 1018-8827
ISSN-E: 1435-165X
ISSN-L: 1018-8827
DOI: 10.1007/s00787-022-02090-8
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland (Grant numbers 330206 and 336209), European Union’s Horizon 2020 Award SC1-2016-RTD-733280 for Research on European Children and Adults Born Preterm (RECAP), European Commission Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course: structures and processes (DIAL) No 724363 for PremLife, Erityisvaltionosuus (EVO) (special state subsidy for research), University of Helsinki Funds, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, Orion Research Foundation, Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Finnish Medical Foundation, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, and Sigrid Juselius Foundation.
EU Grant Number: (956454) RecaP - Capture, recycling and societal management of phosphorus in the environment
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 330206
Detailed Information: 330206 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
336209 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit