Data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA) were utilized to provide the first investigation into the early childhood antecedents of dehumanization (i.e., treating another as less than human) in adult romantic relationships. Drawing on a sample of 109 MLSRA participants, multiple assessments of maternal care and empathy were collected during infancy and early childhood. In adulthood, MLSRA participants and their romantic partners engaged in video recorded conflict discussions in which dehumanization perpetration was coded. Maternal hostility was a significant and unique predictor of dehumanization perpetration. This longitudinal association remained even when controlling for the partner’s displays of dehumanization and several demographic covariates. This study provides the first evidence of early childhood antecedents of dehumanization and highlights how experiences during the first few years of life can have enduring downstream consequences for people’s romantic relationships 20–30 years later.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (R01 HD054850), the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH40864), and the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG039453). This research was also supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s Australia Awards Endeavour Fellowship and the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s Research Training Program (formally the Australian Postgraduate Award) both awarded to Bengianni Pizzirani.
- maternal care
- romantic relationships
- social learning theory