An Investigation of Parental PTSD: How and Why Parental Trauma Impacts the Parent and the Family Dynamic
: (Alternative Format Thesis)

  • Hope Christie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Exposure to a traumatic event is associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A significant number of adults currently living with PTSD also have at least one dependent child in their care. Yet, little is understood about how parental PTSD may impact parenting outcomes and the wider family dynamic, specifically from the parent’s perspective. The aim of the current thesis was to gain a deeper understanding of the potential impacts of parental PTSD. Paper 1 presents a systematic review of the parental PTSD literature, investigating the association between parental PTSD and impaired parenting behaviours. While this review found evidence to suggest that parental PTSD may impair certain parenting outcomes, given the limitations of the studies reviewed, only tentative conclusions could be drawn. Paper 2 investigated parental symptoms of PTSD following a trauma experienced by their child (i.e., parental indirect trauma), as well as examining the cross-over effects of the parent’s and child’s mental health on one another. Building on this, in the same sample Paper 3 investigated the impact of parental PTSD, depression and anxiety following their child’s trauma on observed parenting behaviours during two separate tasks. Some findings from Paper 3 were unexpected, highlighting our lack of understanding of parents’ experiences following trauma exposure. Thus, Paper 4 comprised a qualitative study of UK parents with PTSD examining the perceptions of the consequences of their PTSD for their parenting outcomes. Taken together, findings from Papers 2, 3, and 4 offered multiple perspectives on how and why parental PTSD impacts parenting and family dynamics in a Western context. Paper 5 extended these findings to explore the experiences of parents living with PTSD and residing in a high adversity South African township. The overall findings highlight the multiple challenges that parental PTSD can present, and the complex interplay between parental experiences of trauma/PTSD and their parenting role.
Date of Award20 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSarah Halligan (Supervisor) & Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis (Supervisor)

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