Adverse Childhood Experiences in Mothers With Chronic Pain and Intergenerational Impact on Children

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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs; eg, parental divorce, physical or sexual abuse) are more prevalent in individuals with chronic pain compared with the general population. Both increased maternal ACEs and chronic pain have been associated with poor physical and emotional functioning in offspring. However, the mechanisms driving these associations are poorly understood. Thus, this cross-sectional study evaluated the relation between maternal ACEs, mothers’ current functioning, and children’s physical and emotional functioning in a sample of mothers with chronic pain and their 8- to 12-year-old children. Results indicated a higher prevalence of ≥1 ACE in this sample of mothers with chronic pain (84%) compared with normative data from a community sample of women. Higher maternal ACE scores corresponded with lower physical and social functioning, greater anxiety and depressive symptoms, greater fatigue and sleep disturbances, and greater pain intensity and pain interference in mothers. Higher maternal ACE scores significantly correlated with higher child self-reported depressive symptoms, but not somatic symptoms or functional impairment. A path model indicated that maternal depressive symptoms accounted for the relation between higher maternal ACE scores and children’s depressive symptoms. Intervening on maternal depression among mothers with chronic pain may reduce the impact of intergenerational ACE transmission.

Perspective: This article presents evidence regarding the intergenerational impact of ACEs in a large sample of mothers with chronic pain and their school-aged children. Maternal depressive symptoms accounted for the relation between maternal ACEs and children’s depressive symptoms providing evidence regarding targets for preventive interventions.

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