Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Child maltreatment risk: Associations with mothers' representations of childhood attachment, trauma, caregiving, and regulation
by Tissell, Rachel L., M.A., Mills College, 2016, 117; 10163157
Abstract (Summary)

Child maltreatment models view risk as a complex constellation of factors that emphasize parents’ trauma experiences and regulation processes. Attachment research has shown that mothers’ representations of childhood attachment and caregiving places their children at developmental risk. Studies to date have evaluated contributing factors separately, but little research considers mothers’ past and current experiences combined with relational trauma and familial regulation patterns. The current research adopted an integrated perspective using known maternal risk factors, and extended existing research in several unique ways by examining association with both adult trauma and childhood trauma; caregiving representations; pathological mourning; and capacity for emotion regulation. Seventy-five mothers with children between 19-74 months (40% boys) from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds completed assessments of maltreatment risk, adult attachment, caregiving, relational trauma, parenting stress, and emotion regulation. Maternal representations of attachment were significantly related to risk, with unresolved mothers demonstrating the highest risk. There were significant positive associations between risk and relational trauma – both frequency and subjective distress with parents and partners. Helpless and heightened caregiving representations, parenting stress, and emotion regulation were also all significantly related to risk. This is the first study to consider maltreatment in the context of relational trauma as defined by Bowlby’s (1980) model of pathological mourning. Risk scores were significantly greater for mothers classified in pathological mourning groups than other mothers. These findings punctuate the effects of problems associated with mourning attachment trauma on maternal regulatory capacities and parenting risk. Implications for infant mental health research and intervention are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: George, Carol, Perez, Linda
School: Mills College
Department: Infant Mental Health
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 56/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Evolution and Development, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Abuse, Attachment trauma, Child maltreatment, Developmental psychopathology, Emotion regulation
Publication Number: 10163157
ISBN: 978-1-369-17929-3
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