Role of the Centre in the Prevention of Transgenerational Transfer of Abuse

The 5th Congress Prevention and Rehabilitation in Psychiatry with international participation and theme “The First Line of Health” was held in Osijek from 15 to 18 September 2016. Professional dialogue has been initiated about the methods of stopping or, at least, slowing down trends of the rise of mortality and morbidity of the veteran population and the methods of providing support for them and for their families, says the president of the Congress, Prof. Sc.D Veljko Đorđević, MD. The most recent insights were discussed related to the prevention and rehabilitation of leading mental disorders, therapy (psychopharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, sociotherapy), as well as how the professionals see the protection and improvement of mental health in Croatia.

The Child Protection Centre of Zagreb was represented by Sc.M Mia Roje, psychologist, who presented the paper under the title “The Role of the Child Protection Centre of Zagreb in the Prevention of Transgenerational Abuse” (Buljan Flander, Roje and Šmida), which not only presented our work but also its importance in breaking the cycle of family violence.


Studies show that there is some form of abuse present in almost 50% of situations, and in most cases the abuser is one or both parents. In some families abuse and neglect of children occur more often than in others, so we can consider it to be transgenerational transfer of abuse in the family. The aetiology of abuse is extremely complex and there are several factors determining whether the abuse happens or not. Still, studies for the past fifty years find the personal experience of childhood abuse as one of the high-risk factors contributing to repeated abusive behaviours towards children in the future. Parents who were victims of abuse in their childhood are at double higher risk of abusing their own children.

Prevailing theories explaining this phenomenon are the attachment theory and the social learning theory, which state that the patterns of insecure attachment to primary carers lead to creating inadequate emotional relationships in the future, and the abuse by primary carers is learned as an adequate method of problem solving. Even if the parent who was abused in childhood does not abuse his/her child, the child is at a higher risk of abuse than the general population children, probably due to socioeconomic factors and insecure attachment which shows many risk correlations.

The finding that almost 40% of mothers with transgenerational transfer of abuse, abuse their children in the same way they had been abused in their childhood, i.e. the way they learned from their primary carers, supports the social learning theory. On the other hand, prospective studies show considerable changes through generations, which obviously show that some abused persons break the circle of abuse. Studies show various data about the prevalence of breaking the cycle of abuse, ranging between 30 and 70 percent.

Some characteristics of the persons breaking the cycle of abuse which differentiate them from those continuing it by abusing their children, are mostly related to a psychologically and socially supportive environment. The Child Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb recognises the abuse and neglect of children as the problem of the individual and the family, but also as a public health problem.

By multidisciplinary examination, psychotherapy and counselling of abused children, their parents and families, socialisation and therapy groups, forensic interviews adjusted for children, scientific research and raising public awareness, the Child Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb endeavours to contribute to breaking the cycle of abuse in the society, which has been recognised both at the national and the European level.

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