PTSD in mothers can lead to lax parenting

Children and Families

Deann Gayman, January 10, 2020

PTSD in mothers can lead to lax parenting

Welcome to Pocket Science: a glimpse at recent research from Husker scientists and engineers. For those who want to quickly learn the “What,” “So what” and “Now what” of Husker research.


Past research has linked trauma with problematic parenting behavior, including lax and overreactive parenting. Additionally, women are more likely than men to develop posttraumatic stress disorder over their lifetime, which can impact their interpersonal relationships, including those with their children.

New research from the Trauma, Violence and Abuse Lab at Nebraska examined whether PTSD in mothers affects their parenting behavior, and what role emotional regulation may play. The findings suggest PTSD is related to dysfunctional parenting, but that emotional dysregulation accounts for this relationship.

So what?

The study, led by graduate students Shaina Kumar and Molly Franz, identified 78 mothers, 19 of whom had PTSD. These mothers, who all had 18- to 36-month-old children, were asked to complete the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale to assess emotion dysregulation, and the Parenting Scale, a self-report measure of tendencies toward different discipline styles.

The researchers had hypothesized that PTSD status would predict both lax parenting and over-reactivity, and that these associations would be mediated by emotion dysregulation. Results illustrated that emotion dysregulation mediated the relationship between PTSD and lax parenting, but not between PTSD and overreactive parenting. In other words, mothers with PTSD were more likely to report poorer emotion regulation, which in turn was associated with lax parenting techniques.

Now what?

The researchers note that permissive parenting after trauma may be the result of mothers having diminished emotional resources to consistently discipline or communicate expectations to their children. The study also suggests further research is needed to continue to understand how PTSD and emotional dysregulation affect parenting behaviors.

Children and Families Health Mental Health Psychology