Intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment using a multi-informant multi-generation family design

Renate S.M. Buisman*, Katharina Pittner, Marieke S. Tollenaar, Jolanda Lindenberg, Lisa J.M. van den Berg, Laura H.C.G. Compier-De Block, Joost R. van Ginkel, Lenneke R.A. Alink, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Bernet M. Elzinga, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the current study a three-generational design was used to investigate intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment (ITCM) using multiple sources of information on child maltreatment: mothers, fathers and children. A total of 395 individuals from 63 families reported on maltreatment. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to combine data from mother, father and child about maltreatment that the child had experienced. This established components reflecting the convergent as well as the unique reports of father, mother and child on the occurrence of maltreatment. Next, we tested ITCM using the multi-informant approach and compared the results to those of two more common approaches: ITCM based on one reporter and ITCM based on different reporters from each generation. Results of our multi-informant approach showed that a component reflecting convergence between mother, father, and child reports explained most of the variance in experienced maltreatment. For abuse, intergenerational transmission was consistently found across approaches. In contrast, intergenerational transmission of neglect was only found using the perspective of a single reporter, indicating that transmission of neglect might be driven by reporter effects. In conclusion, the present results suggest that including multiple informants may be necessary to obtain more valid estimates of ITCM.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0225839
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2020


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