The Intergenerational Transmission of Maladaptive Parenting and its Impact on Child Mental Health: Examining Cross-Cultural Mediating Pathways and Moderating Protective Factors

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Using a sample of 1338 families from 12 cultural groups in 9 nations, we examined whether retrospectively remembered Generation 1 (G1) parent rejecting behaviors were passed to Generation 2 (G2 parents), whether such intergenerational transmission led to higher Generation 3 (G3 child) externalizing and internalizing behavior at age 13, and whether such intergenerational transmission could be interrupted by parent participation in parenting programs or family income increases of > 5%. Utilizing structural equation modeling, we found that the intergenerational transmission of parent rejection that is linked with higher child externalizing and internalizing problems occurs across cultural contexts. However, the magnitude of transmission is greater in cultures with higher normative levels of parent rejection. Parenting program participation broke this intergenerational cycle in fathers from cultures high in normative parent rejection. Income increases appear to break this intergenerational cycle in mothers from most cultures, regardless of normative levels of parent rejection. These results tentatively suggest that bolstering protective factors such as parenting program participation, income supplementation, and (in cultures high in normative parent rejection) legislative changes and other population-wide positive parenting information campaigns aimed at changing cultural parenting norms may be effective in breaking intergenerational cycles of maladaptive parenting and improving child mental health across multiple generations.