A different kind of parent: Resisting the intergenerational legacy of maltreatment

Stephanie Margerita Monaghan-Blout (1999)

Histories of physical/sexual abuse and neglect among parents who maltreat their children are so common as to be unremarkable, yet most studies indicate that victims of childhood abuse do not inevitably repeat the sins of their parents. This study will focus on parents who were either at risk for or had actually abused their children, but chose to find an alternative to the parent-child relationship they learned from their own family. Members of Parents Anonymous, who themselves experienced childhood abuse, participated in a qualitative study that examined their perceptions of the impact of childhood maltreatment on their development, how they decided to resist their family's abusive legacy, what resources they drew upon to raise their children in a different way, and how helpers have either supported or undermined their efforts to be an exception. Results suggest that some of the difficulties in helping at/risk or maltreating parents may come from an insufficient respect for how the themes developed through a childhood of maltreatment interfere with the establishment of a positive relationship. Key qualities in building a helping alliance were described by the participants, and the good match between client needs and a self/mutual help model were noted. Important aspects of resilient outcomes involved childhood sibling bonds and the successful negotiation of earlier critical events. The strengths, resources, and opportunities identified by the women were used to make recommendations for effective interventions.