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A systematic review of the association between the childhood sexual abuse experiences of mothers and the abuse status of their children: Protection strategies, intergenerational transmission, and reactions to the abuse of their children.


Child sexual abuse (CSA) represents a significant public health concern. Research shows an association between the CSA status of mothers and the abuse status of their children, how they react to the abuse of their children, and behaviors they engage in to protect their children from abuse. However, a systematic review of this literature has yet to be conducted, and this review aimed to fill that gap. Seven databases and search engines were searched for relevant studies from inception until March 2017. Reference lists of included studies and titles of studies that cited included studies were also searched. Two authors independently completed study screening, data extraction, and quality determinations. Ninety-three studies were identified and narratively synthesized by significant, non-significant, and descriptive results. These results were further elaborated on in the context of the methods used. Though some heterogeneity existed, results showed that status as a mother with a CSA history (M) was associated with having children who experienced CSA. There was no evidence that M status was associated with a greater likelihood of believing their children when they disclosed abuse, although M status was associated with increased emotional distress. Results were mixed regarding whether M status was associated with perpetrating maltreatment broadly, perpetrating individual forms of maltreatment, such as emotional abuse or neglect, or having the potential to abuse. Most studies found no association between M status and use of corporal punishment. However, when mothers and others were combined, because the main perpetrator was not listed, it was found that belonging to this combined group was associated with increased risk of engaging in maltreatment behaviors. Finally, few studies on protective behaviors of M were located. Future research is needed with larger, more diverse samples using validated instruments. This information will be critical for future intervention development. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.