Childhood Maltreatment and Mother-Child Attachment: Examining Interactions among Attachment, Depression, Reflective Functioning, Parenting Behaviors, and Young Children's Outcomes in Mothers with Histories of Childhood Maltreatment
Although previous research identified mothers who experienced childhood maltreatment as exhibiting an especially heightened risk for attachment difficulties with their own young children, evidence regarding the mechanisms of action driving this relationship have been lacking. Thus, the current study introduced mothers' depressive symptoms and the novel construct of reflective functioning as potential mediators to help explain the relationship between mothers' childhood maltreatment experiences and patterns of insecure (i.e., anxious, avoidant, and disorganized) mother-young child attachment. The current study included a community sample of 146 mothers with children who ranged in age from 1 1/2-to 5-years. Mothers provided ratings of their own childhood maltreatment experiences, attachment with their young children, depressive symptoms, reflective functioning, parenting behaviors and attributions, and young children's problems. Correlational analyses displayed significant associations among the variables of interest. Additionally, mediational analyses indicated that mothers' depressive symptoms mediated the relationship between mothers' childhood maltreatment experiences and patterns of insecure mother-young child attachment. Given that mothers' childhood maltreatment experiences failed to predict reflective functioning, the mediational role of reflective functioning was unsupported. Further, mothers' reflective functioning mediated the relationship between mothers' depressive symptoms and patterns of mother-young child insecure attachment. Finally, hierarchical regression analyses showed that mothers' adverse childhood experiences and depressive symptoms uniquely predicted their young children's internalizing and externalizing problems. These data suggested that the psychological consequences resulting from adverse childhood experiences may be more damaging to mothers' attachment with their young children than mothers' adverse childhood experiences alone. Moreover, these findings suggested that mothers' depressive symptoms and reflective functioning work together in predicting mother-young child attachment. Altogether, these results demonstrated the importance for promoting trauma-informed parenting interventions for facilitating secure emotional connections between mothers and young children, especially in mothers with childhood traumatic experiences themselves.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Khan, Maria, "Childhood Maltreatment and Mother-Child Attachment: Examining Interactions among Attachment, Depression, Reflective Functioning, Parenting Behaviors, and Young Children's Outcomes in Mothers with Histories of Childhood Maltreatment" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5584.