Quality of Mother–child Dialogue About Emotional Events, Coping and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Children Exposed to Interpersonal Trauma

Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma

Mathilde M. Overbeek, Nina Koren-Karie, J. Clasien de Schipper, Ivanka van Delft & Carlo Schuengel



Children exposed to traumatic events are at increased risk for developing symptoms of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Children often discuss emotional, and therefore also traumatic, events in their lives with their parents, and the quality of these discussions can facilitate coping and further development. The study aim was 1) to explore whether the association between the quality of dialogue between mothers and children about emotional events and children’s posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) might be indirectly linked through children’s adaptive coping skills, and 2) whether this association differed when discussing different negative emotions. 169 mother–child dyads with interpersonal trauma-exposure (86% domestic violence, 14% mother and/or child sexually abused) participated in the Autobiographical Emotional Events Dialogue (AEED). Quality of mother–child emotion dialogue, captured in maternal sensitive guidance and child cooperation, and approach-oriented coping were coded from transcripts. PTSS was measured with the Child Behavior Checklist. Lower quality of mother–child emotion dialogue was associated with less approach-oriented coping and more symptoms of posttraumatic stress. There was an indirect effect of approach-oriented coping with angry feelings linking quality of mother–child emotion dialogue and child PTSS. Children’s symptoms of posttraumatic stress were reflected in the quality of mother–child dialogues about traumatic and other emotional events. Findings support that dialogues about emotional events may be a promising target for intervention with children exposed to trauma.

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