Historical reports of mothers’ adverse experiences related to childhood neglect or abuse of her offspring have rarely been studied in older age samples. We know child maltreatment relates to life-long negative impacts including adult adversity, problem partner relationships, insecure attachment style and problem parenting. It is also often transmitted inter-generationally. Examining such transmission historically can give us access to previous generations still burdened by largely untreated impacts. This retrospective study was conducted in 100 dyads-paired older age mothers and their midlife daughters, to look at earlier family context for transmission of risk of child maltreatment. Mothers’ high levels of adult adversity, insecure attachment style, marked incompetence as a parent together with her partners’ disorder or criminal behaviour significantly related to daughters’ childhood maltreatment. The mothers’ own neglect/abuse in childhood showed a non-significant trend in relating. Logistic regression showed only mothers’ insecure attachment style and partner problem behaviour modelled daughters’ neglect/abuse. A detailed case study from the sample illustrates these findings. The study shows how historical information can be collected through intensive interview. This can illuminate intergenerational transmission from a period when safeguarding interventions were minimal and in mothers entering older age. It can also aid practitioner understanding of the origins of child maltreatment risk and transmission.
Keywords: Intergenerational transmission; adult adversity; partner problems; depression.