Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences and Parenting Attitudes: the Role of Cumulative Protection in Understanding Resilience

Amanda Sheffield Morris, Jennifer Hays-Grudo, Martha Isabel Zapata, Amy Treat, Kara L. Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Theory and research indicate that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to negative parenting attitudes and behaviors. We posit that protective and compensatory experiences (PACEs) in childhood buffer the negative effects of ACEs on later parenting. To test this premise, the present study examined associations between ACEs, PACEs, and attitudes towards nurturing and harsh parenting in an ethnically diverse sample of parents with children of various ages (N = 109; 65% mothers, 35% fathers; M age = 38). Parents completed a widely used parenting attitudes questionnaire and the ACEs and PACEs surveys. PACEs were negatively correlated with ACEs and positively correlated with nurturing parenting attitudes and parent income and education levels. Linear regression models indicate that higher PACEs, ACEs, and family income and less harsh parenting attitudes predict nurturing parenting attitudes. In contrast, higher ACEs and less nurturing attitudes were correlated with harsh parenting attitudes. As expected, moderation analyses indicated that the association between ACEs and harsh parenting attitudes was conditional upon the level of PACEs. When PACE scores were low (M – 1 SD), but not when PACE scores were average or high (M + 1 SD), ACEs were associated with harsh parenting attitudes, suggesting a buffering effect of PACEs on negative parenting attitudes. These findings support the importance of including protective as well as adverse childhood experiences when assessing the role of childhood experiences on parenting attitudes and practices. Implications of these findings for researchers and practitioners are discussed, as well as new directions for PACEs research using a cumulative protection approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalAdversity and Resilience Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Harsh parenting
  • Parenting attitudes
  • Protective and compensatory experiences (PACEs)
  • Resilience


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