*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on NBC News.
Beating, yelling and neglect can all be passed from one generation to the next — but parents are often keen to break the cycle of abuse if they can get the right help, according to a new study.
Researchers found that the more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely their children were to be troubled, too.
The findings suggest that poor parenting is handed on from one generation to the next, said Anne-Marie Conn, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
"Parents with multiple adverse events were more likely to value corporal punishment," she told NBC News. A study published recently found that even gentle spanking, with an open hand, can backfire and cause kids to misbehave — yet American parents overwhelmingly believe it's good for kids.
"We also found that parents with more adverse events, their children were a little more likely to have emotional problems," Conn said.
And yet, Conn told a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore on Tuesday, parents often are keen for guidance — and they'll trust their pediatricians to provide it. She believes pediatricians are in a unique position to ask parents about their parenting styles, and advise them about ways to change bad habits their own parents may have taught them.
Her team interviewed 62 parents of young children attending a clinic to find out how their own childhoods may have determined how they raised their kids.
They found clear links. The more adverse experiences a person had as a child, the more likely his or her own children were troubled by age 5.
On average, the parents at the clinic had suffered three to four adverse experiences when they were children. These included verbal and physical abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, and sexual abuse. Family dysfunctions included criminal behavior, substance abuse, separation of parents, parental or caregiver mental health problems, and violence.
"We found that 91 percent of parents had at least one adverse childhood experience, while 45 percent had four or more," Conn said in remarks prepared for her presentation. "And among their young children, 72 percent had already experienced at least one adverse childhood experience."
When parents had four or more of these bad experiences, their children were nearly six times more likely to already be showing signs of social or emotional problems, Conn and colleagues found.
The parents are not clueless, Conn stressed. "When you interview parents, they are aware their past experiences affect their parenting," she said.
What they are not sure about is what to do, and what not to do.
"It's hard to break patterns of behavior. You were brought up in an adverse environment and that is what you know," Conn said.
Conn thinks pediatricians can ask parents about negative attitudes when they bring their children in for the many appointments that younger children have for vaccines and checkups. Parents are often open to it, she said.