Newswise – Psychologists know about the transmission of abuse from one family to another, meaning that if you were abused, you are more likely to abuse your own children. This makes some potential parents worry that they may have a genetic predilection to abuse their kids, but research on monkeys shows this isn’t true?the chain of abuse CAN be broken.
“Maternal abuse of offspring in macaque monkeys shares some similarities with child maltreatment in humans, including its transmission across generations,” says psychologist Dario Maestripieri. “The mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of abuse are not well understood. Ours is the first study to show that rhesus monkey females who are abused by their mothers in infancy tend to become abusive mothers themselves, and the first to provide experimental evidence that the intergenerational transmission of abuse is the result of early experience and not genetic inheritance.” In other words, you CAN break the chain of abuse.
Among macaque monkeys, most of the abuse occurs in the first six months of an infant’s life, and most of that abuse occurs during the first month. The abuse consists of such behavior as biting, dragging or hitting. Sexual abuse, if it even occurs among non-human primates, was not studied.
Maestripieri moved female infants between abusive and non-abusive mothers and followed these infants, along with others who were reared by their biological mothers, until they gave birth. They found that nine of the 16 females who were abused in infancy by their biological or foster mothers were abusive toward their own offspring, while none of the 15 females reared by non-abusive mothers were abusive toward their offspring.
The good news is that they found that none of the offspring who were born to abusive mothers but raised by non-abusive foster mothers developed abusive parenting patterns. Researchers estimate that as many 70% of the people who abuse their children were abused themselves growing up.
Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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