Compared to the general population, parents who are substance-involved are both more likely to have experienced adversity during childhood and to exhibit elevated child maltreatment potential later in life. Within this population, mothers with young children are particularly at-risk. In order to enhance scientific understanding of this phenomenon, this study identified and examined several characteristics that were shown previously to be related to substance misuse and to the experience and perpetration of maltreatment. These characteristics included stress, affectivity, emotion dysregulation, and emotion regulation strategies. The current study examined these variables collectively in order to clarify the mechanisms at play in the intergenerational transmission of childhood adversity within the substance-involved population. As part of this study, 127 mothers who were in treatment for substance use problems and who had young children ranging in age from 0- to 5-years rated their own childhood adversity, parenting stress, positive and negative affect, emotion dysregulation, emotion regulation strategies, and child maltreatment potential. Correlational analyses demonstrated many significant relationships among these characteristics. In addition, hierarchical regression analyses suggested that several characteristics (i.e., adverse childhood experiences, childhood maltreatment, parenting stress, positive affect, negative affect, and emotion dysregulation) added unique incremental variance to the prediction of child maltreatment potential. Moderation analyses indicated that parenting stress moderated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and positive affect. Exploratory mediation analyses demonstrated that emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and child maltreatment potential. Finally, exploratory logistic regression analyses demonstrated that adverse childhood experiences predicted involvement with the child welfare system, even when other mechanisms of action were accounted for. In these analyses, emotion dysregulation approached significance. Overall, this study demonstrated the importance of emotion dysregulation as a central characteristic that links the experience of childhood adversity, an elevated likelihood of substance misuse, and increased child maltreatment potential. Accordingly, these findings suggested the need to address emotion dysregulation as part of trauma-informed intervention efforts for this population. Integrative strategies such as these may reduce emotional and behavioral symptoms following the experience of childhood adversity, increase the likelihood of maintaining sobriety, improve parent-child relationships, and decrease child maltreatment potential.


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Graduation Date





Renk, Kimberly


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Clinical Psychology









Release Date


Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)