Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2019

Document Type



Alexander, E. 2019. The Relationship Between Maternal PTSD and Child Internalizing Behaviors: The Influence of Parenting Stress and Social Support. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Elizabeth Alexander 2019.


Existing research has shown that PTSD impacts child outcomes via parenting, but little research has examined other possible mechanisms of this association. Parenting stress may mediate the relationship between maternal PTSD and child behavior outcomes, because maternal PTSD impacts a mother’s ability to manage parenting-related stress, which in turn influences child behavior outcomes. While, social support may buffer the relationship between maternal PTSD and parenting stress by improving maternal psychological wellbeing and allowing mothers to form healthier attachments with their children. Thus, the present study examined (a) PTSD symptom severity predicting child internalizing behaviors via parenting stress and (b) the buffering effect of social support on the relation between PTSD symptom severity and parenting stress. To investigate this moderated mediation model, 78 mother-child dyads were recruited from the community to participate in an online survey and an in-lab session. PTSD symptom severity was assessed via the CAPS-5 and mothers completed the Parenting Stress Index, the Social Support Questionnaire to assess perceived social support quality, and the Child Behavior Checklist to determine the presence of child internalizing behaviors. Findings indicated that higher maternal PTSD significantly predicted more child internalizing behaviors via greater parenting stress. However, social support did not buffer the impact of maternal PTSD on parenting stress. Findings indicate that children of mothers with PTSD symptoms may be at greater risk of developing internalizing symptoms by way of increased parenting stress and suggests a need for clinical interventions focused on reducing parenting stress.