What is it about?

Mothers and fathers who have been mistreated as children sometimes hurt their own children, despite their strong desire not to. The emotional trauma associated with being hurt as a child can become part of a template that automatically influences parenting without the parent being aware of why they struggle. We describe how two fathers, one who used violence and the other who was addicted to drugs, were helped to uncover and change these templates. The intervention helped them to understand the effect of their behaviours on the children and allowed them to safely regain the care.

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Why is it important?

Fathers who use violence and substances have been excluded from families rather then offered support. We show that some of these fathers can be helped to become safe parents. We also show that therapy, that is commonly provided by trained mental health professional, can be offered by the same case workers that provide practical support. This makes sure that vulnerable families have access to high quality therapy, and helps parents and workers to use the insights from therapy to change parenting behaviours.


As a child and adolescent psychiatrist I see how difficult it is for many parents with traumatic childhood experiences to get access to the help that they need when they don't know how to stop themselves repeating the same patterns that harmed them as children. I have been deeply heartened to see that therapy can be made more readily available by extending our ideas about who can deliver therapy and who might benefit, if given a chance.

Jackie Amos
University of South Australia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Using the Adult Exploration of Attachment Interview ( AEAI ) to Break the Cycle of Intergenerational Trauma: Illustrations from a Family Reunification Program, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, May 2022, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1002/anzf.1490.
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