Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Angela J. Narayan

Second Advisor

Anne P. DePrince

Third Advisor

Lauren M. McGrath

Fourth Advisor

Galena K. Rhoades

Fifth Advisor

Daniel Brisson


Childhood maltreatment, Communication, Fathers, Pregnancy, Romantic relationships, Trauma


Childhood maltreatment (CM) is associated with difficulties in romantic relationships in adulthood, including conflict, less support, and difficulties in communication. However, little is known about the impact of CM on romantic relationship functioning in the context of pregnancy, during which time romantic relationships are highly influential for family well-being. Additionally, very limited research has been conducted on fathers’ relationship experiences after a history of CM. In a set of two papers, this dissertation examined the effects of CM on 1) pregnant women’s narrative coherence about their romantic partners and 2) couples’ (pregnant women and babies’ fathers) observed conflict communication and recovery from conflict. Participants in each study were predominantly low-income, racially and ethnically diverse parents expecting a baby, with high rates of CM on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scale. In Study 1, pregnant women’s responses to the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) about their romantic partners were used to code for women’s ability to generate a coherent and balanced narrative about their partners. Results of Study 1 showed that CM was associated with higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which were in turn linked to poorer narrative coherence about partners. These findings indicated that CM may contribute to traumatic intrusions that disrupt social information processing about partners, which could have implications for their relationship behavior. In Study 2, conflict communication and recovery were coded based on observed interaction behavior between pregnant women and babies’ fathers during a conflict discussion and positive event discussion. Results of Study 2 showed that CM was associated with less avoidance in conflict communication among fathers, potentially reflecting their effort to be more present in relationships because of their adverse experiences. On the other hand, fathers with a history of childhood sexual abuse, specifically, were particularly at risk for higher levels of negative conflict communication. Together, the two studies elucidate the challenges that individuals with a CM history face in romantic relationship functioning during the pregnancy period and identify potential targets for clinical intervention.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Laura M. River


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


105 pgs

File Size

1.4 MB



Available for download on Friday, September 12, 2025