Intergenerational transmission of child protective services involvement

Janczewski, C., Mersky, J., & Lee, C. P. (2023). Intergenerational transmission of child protective services involvement: Exploring the role of ACEs and domestic violence among families who receive home visiting services. Child Abuse & Neglect144, 106384.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with negative outcomes over the life course and across generations, including domestic violence (DV) and child maltreatment. However, no studies have examined the connection between parents’ ACEs and their child’s risk of child protective services (CPS) involvement or possible mechanisms of transmission.

In addition to describing the prevalence and correlates of CPS involvement, our primary aims are to test whether parental adversity in childhood is associated with CPS involvement and whether DV victimization mediates the ACE-CPS association.

Participants and setting
The sample included 3039 primary caregivers and 3343 children served by home visiting programs in Wisconsin between 2014 and 2019.

Using matched home visiting and CPS records, we generated prevalence estimates of screened-in CPS reports and assessed bivariate associations between CPS involvement and ACEs, DV, and household demographics. We then conducted a two-stage path analysis to test the association between ACEs and CPS involvement and whether DV mediated the ACE-CPS association.

Overall, 22.8 % of caregivers had a screened-in report. Prevalence rates were higher among women who endured ACEs and DV, and they varied by demographic characteristics. ACEs were directly linked to DV and CPS involvement, and there was an indirect pathway linking ACEs to CPS involvement through DV exposure.

Home visiting programs serve families that frequently interact with the child welfare system. By enhancing the trauma-responsive potential of these interventions, it may be possible to interrupt intergenerational mechanisms that contribute to child abuse and neglect and CPS involvement.

Link to publication

All Trauma & Resilience