Available epidemiological data indicate that the abuse of children within families is a very common phenomenon, and is still on the rise. Among others, abuse includes direct physical and emotional violence to the child, as well as the indirect emotional trauma of witnessing interparental violence. These early trauma experienced within the context of the family can influence the development of the child’s personality as well as predispose towards the development of mental disorders in adulthood. There are some important factors influencing the occurrence of abuse, or the conditions predisposing it: certain parental personality traits appear to be instrumental, and the presence of individual psychopathology of parents is also connected with different forms of family dysfunction as a system, representing a variable which is interpolated in the quality of parenthood as the most important factor that determines long-term consequences on children and possible future psychopathology. The complex but tangible effects of parents’ personality traits on the psychological development of children may contribute to the transgenerational transmission of abuse and violence. The phenomenon of domestic violence and abuse can be described from the perspective of the psychological and systemic theoretical postulates. According to systemic theory and practice, dysfunctional communication in the family is a significant predictor for domestic violence. Characteristics of dysfunctional communication include low levels of verbal expressiveness and emotional responsiveness, low tolerance to criticism and its interpretation as a threat or intimidation, and consequently increased anxiety and subsequent escalation of an argument into violence. Overall it seems that there may be a complex connection between parental personality and family interaction patterns, leading to dysfunctional communication which further amplifies the detrimental characteristics of family dynamics, and eventually escalates to violence. According to one theory, there may be a degree of transgenerational transmission of these communication patterns in children who have been victims of violence, thus propagating the conditions for violence, this time perpetrated by the victims themselves. Therefore there is a pressing need for prevention, perhaps through psychoeducation for parents or through early detection and treatment of traumatized children and adolescents, in the hope that the transgenerational vicious cycle of violence may be broken.

Key words: Child abuse, parenting, family system, family violence, psychopathology, transgenerational transmission.

D. Lecic-Tosevski, S. Draganic-Gajic, M. Pejovic-Milovancevic, S. Popovic-Deusic, N. Christodoulou, M. Botbol (page 185) - Full article