Perinatal Promotive and Protective Factors for Women with Histories of Childhood Abuse and Neglect

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Protective factor, Promotive factor, Resilience, Perinatal period, Childhood adversity, Developmental psychopathology



Integrative research summarizing promotive and protective factors that reduce the effects of childhood abuse and neglect on pregnant women and their babies’ healthy functioning is needed.


This narrative systematic review synthesized the quantitative literature on protective and promotive factors that support maternal mental health and maternal-infant bonding among women exposed to childhood adversity, including childhood abuse and neglect.


Using a comprehensive list of key terms related to the perinatal period, childhood adversity, and protective/promotive factors, 8423 non-duplicated articles were identified through database searches in PsychInfo and Web of Science, and references in retrieved articles. Thirty-seven full text articles were inspected; of those 18 were included.


Protective and promotive factors fell into three categories: a) women’s internal capacities (e.g., self-esteem, coping ability), b) external early resources (e.g., positive childhood experiences) and c) external contemporaneous resources (e.g., social support). Although all three categories were associated with more resilient outcomes, external contemporaneous factors, and specifically, social support, were the most commonly-studied protective and/or promotive factor. Social support from family and romantic partners during the perinatal period was particularly protective for women with histories of childhood abuse and neglect and was examined across several dimensions of support and contexts.


The presence of women’s internal capacities, and external early and contemporaneous resources help to foster more positive outcomes during the perinatal period for women with histories of childhood adversity. Future research should study co-occurring multilevel promotive and protective factors to inform how they integratively deter the intergenerational transmission of risk.

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