• Mother-child interactions;
  • problem-solving;
  • high-risk;
  • intergenerational


This study examined the contribution of maternal childhood histories of aggression and social withdrawal to the prediction of mother–child social problem solving in the next generation. Fifty-seven women (M = 37.32 years), previously rated (on a version of the pupil evaluation inventory) by their peers during childhood on measures of aggression and withdrawal, discussed conflicts with their 9- to 13-year-old children. Problem-defining statements, solutions, and resolution strategies were coded using an observational measure developed by the authors. Maternal childhood histories of aggression and withdrawal predicted poorly sophisticated solutions in both mothers and children as well as antisocial solutions in children. Histories of withdrawal predicted solitary solutions in children as well as less guidance and structure during decision making. Findings suggest that mothers who were withdrawn, and those aggressive and withdrawn in childhood, display less sophisticated problem solving, which may be mirrored in children. Results have implications for the development of aggressive and withdrawn girls into parenthood and highlight a potential pathway for the transfer of risk.