Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 36 pages) : 1 illustration.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Betty Lin

Committee Members

Elana Gordis


Child maltreatment, Infant health, Intergenerational transmission, Maternal childhood trauma, Maternal sensitivity, Mexican American, Adult child abuse victims, Mexican American mothers, Mother and child, Low-income mothers, Maternal and infant welfare, Sensitivity (Personality trait)

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology


Childhood maltreatment confers greater risk for psychopathology, health problems, and early mortality in adulthood. Emerging literature suggests that maternal childhood maltreatment exposure may have intergenerational consequences for infant health by interfering with mothers’ abilities to engage in sensitive and responsive caregiving. Although no studies to date have investigated contributions of maternal sensitivity to infant health, parallel bodies of research have shown that sensitive responding is an important predictor of infant physiological regulation, which is also related to immune functioning. The current study examined the associations between maternal childhood maltreatment, infant health concerns, and maternal sensitivity in a low income, Mexican American sample. Data were collected from 322 mother-infant dyads during prenatal and 12-, 18-, and 24-week home visits. The present study is among the first to investigate links between maternal childhood maltreatment exposure, maternal sensitivity, and infant health. Results suggest that maternal childhood maltreatment exposure may have intergenerational consequences for infant health, but that changes in maternal sensitivity do not appear to account for their associations. Nevertheless, maternal sensitivity may represent an important resiliency characteristic that promotes infant health. Clarification about underlying risk processes and potentiating resiliency characteristics may help to elucidate ways in which to better support both mothers and infants across the lifespan.