Weakened Resilience in Parenting Self-Efficacy in Pregnant Women Who Were Abused in Childhood: An Experimental Test

Florentina C Kunseler, Mirjam Oosterman, Marleen H M de Moor, Marije L Verhage, Carlo Schuengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study tested experimentally whether the combination of a history of childhood abuse and confrontation with difficult infant temperament is associated with negative changes in parenting self-efficacy. First-time pregnant women (N = 243) participated in the Adult Attachment Interview, which was used to assess the occurrence of abuse by parents in childhood and unresolved representations, and completed a task asking them to respond to infant cries. Sixty of the 243 participants (25%) experienced childhood abuse, mostly physical or sexual. The task simulated infant temperamental difficulty by manipulating soothing success in order to reflect an easy-to-soothe (80% soothing success) and a difficult-to-soothe infant (20% soothing success). Both after baseline and after each of the two stimulus series women assessed their parenting self-efficacy. Women who reported childhood abuse did not differ from women who reported no childhood abuse in parenting self-efficacy at baseline or in response to the easy-to-soothe infant (relative to baseline), but decreased more in parenting self-efficacy following the difficult-to-soothe infant. Effects did not vary according to resolution of trauma. These findings suggest that in response to infant temperamental difficulty, women who experienced childhood abuse may more easily lose confidence in their parenting abilities, which underlines the importance of preparing at-risk women for the possible challenges that come along with parenthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0141801
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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