Examining Associations between Maternal Trauma, Child Attachment Security, and Child Behaviours in Refugee Families


  • Jennifer Barnes Storms and Rainbows Psychology, Ottawa
  • Jennifer Theule Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3337-4872




attachment, trauma, depression, refugee, mother-chiild


We examined post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms in refugee mothers and the relationships between maternal trauma, child attachment security, and child internalizing and externalizing behaviours. Results from 36 mothers of children 18–70 months old indicated that while 94.4% of mothers reported experiencing trauma, only 2.8% reported clinically elevated PTSD symptoms. Maternal PTSD symptoms were correlated with child internalizing and externalizing behaviours. Attachment security was negatively correlated with internalizing and externalizing behaviours. Attachment security moderated the relationship between PTSD symptoms and externalizing behaviours; PTSD symptoms predicted externalizing behaviours for children with low attachment security only. This suggests that child attachment security may protect against maternal trauma.


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Author Biographies

Jennifer Barnes, Storms and Rainbows Psychology, Ottawa

Jennifer Barnes is clinical psychologist at Storms and Rainbows Psychology. She can be reached at jbarnes@stormsandrainbowspsychology.com.

Jennifer Theule, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba

Jennifer Theule is an Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba. She can be reached at jen.theule@umanitoba.ca


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How to Cite

Barnes, J., & Theule, J. (2023). Examining Associations between Maternal Trauma, Child Attachment Security, and Child Behaviours in Refugee Families. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 39(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.41085

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