Trauma exposure in relation to the content of mother-child emotional conversations and quality of interaction

Mathilde M. Overbeek, Nina Koren-Karie, Adi Erez Ben-Haim, J. Clasien de Schipper, Patricia D. Dreier Gligoor, Carlo Schuengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parent-child conversations contribute to understanding and regulating children’s emotions. Similarities and differences in discussed topics, quality of interaction and coherence/elaboration in mother-child conversations about emotional experiences of the child were studied in dyads who had been exposed to interpersonal trauma (N = 213) and non-trauma-exposed dyads (N = 86). Results showed that in conversations about negative emotions, trauma-exposed children more often discussed trauma topics and focused less on relationship topics than non-trauma-exposed children. Trauma-exposed dyads found it more difficult to come up with a story. The most common topics chosen by dyads to discuss for each emotion were mostly similar between trauma-exposed dyads and non-trauma-exposed dyads. Dyads exposed to interpersonal traumatic events showed lower quality of interaction and less coherence/elaboration than dyads who had not experienced traumatic events. Discussion of traumatic topics was associated with lower quality of mother-child interaction and less coherent dialogues. In conclusion, the effect of the trauma is seen at several levels in mother-child interaction: topics, behavior and coherence. A focus on support in developing a secure relationship after trauma may be important for intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number805
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Emotion conversation
  • Emotion dialogue
  • Marital violence
  • Mother-child interaction
  • Parent-child communication
  • Sexual abuse
  • Trauma exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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