Childhood maltreatment (CM) has long been recognized as a risk factor for good intimate relationships. Research on the effects of CM on relationship functioning has focused on sexual abuse in girls. However, CM also includes emotional and physical abuse and neglect and is also common in boys. Moreover, prior research has mostly focused on individuals in isolation, ignoring that marriage is a system in which two partners mutually influence each other. Questions also remain about mediating and protective factors for healthy relationships in the context of CM. This article reviews the literature on the link between different forms of CM and one’s own and one’s partner relationship quality. It reviews 43 empirical studies that assessed associations between CM in any form and relationship quality. Also, mediating and protective factors and major methodological topics are examined. The review indicated that CM (neglect, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse) is associated with lower relationship quality in men and women. Psychological distress, cognitive and behavioral problems, insecure attachment, and self-dysregulation were identified as mediating factors. Protective processes involve good coping strategies, emotion regulation, parental support, and early secure attachment, but not partner characteristics. The results regarding gender are inconclusive. It is crucial to broaden the research on the dyadic effects of CM of various forms on relationship quality and study mediating and protective factors. More studies on neglect and diverse populations are needed, as well as prospective studies. This will enable the development of prevention programs for couples with a partner exposed to CM.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.
- mediating factors
- protective factors
- relationship quality