Associations between parental trauma, mental health, and parenting: A qualitative study in a high-adversity South African community

Hope Christie, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, Filipa Alves-Costa, Mark Tomlinson, Jackie Stewart, Sarah Skeen, Vuyolwethu Notholi, Phumza Gqwaka, Akhona Sambudla, Sarah Halligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (SciVal)


Rationale: Research suggests that parenting behaviours are negatively affected by parental trauma. However, thus far, the evidence base has provided limited insight into why this occurs. Further, the available evidence has focused largely on high income contexts (HICs), and we know much less about the experiences of parents in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) who are frequently coping with multiple adversities. Objective: The current qualitative study aimed to gain a more in-depth understanding from the parent's perspective about whether and how their trauma impacted themselves and their parenting behaviours. Method: We conducted interviews with 30 trauma-exposed, Xhosa speaking parents (28 mothers) from Khayelitsha, a township outside Cape Town in South Africa, 66% of whom reported experiencing moderate to severe posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results: Five key themes were identified: consequences for parents as individuals (in terms of mental and physical health); the centrality of community and cultural context to parental experiences; consequences in terms of parenting capacity; trauma related effects on the child and how these may influence parental coping; and mechanisms of coping and achieving recovery. Conclusion: Findings highlight the difficult nature of parenting following trauma due to impacts on multiple areas of life, and suggest potential avenues for the development of parenting interventions in order to support parents and families more effectively following trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113474
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date23 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


  • Caregiver
  • Family
  • Low and middle income countries
  • Parent
  • Parenting
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • South Africa
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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