Maternal physiological dysregulation while parenting poses risk for infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Susan D. Calkins, Professor (Creator)
Esther M. Leerkes, Professor (Creator)
Marion O'Brien, Professor, Director of Family Research Center and Associate Dean for Research (Creator)
Andrew "Andy" Supple, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The extent to which indices of maternal physiological arousal (skin conductance augmentation) and regulation (vagal withdrawal) while parenting predict infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems directly or indirectly via maternal sensitivity was examined in a sample of 259 mothers and their infants. Two covariates, maternal self-reported emotional risk and Adult Attachment Interview attachment coherence were assessed prenatally. Mothers' physiological arousal and regulation were measured during parenting tasks when infants were 6 months old. Maternal sensitivity was observed during distress-eliciting tasks when infants were 6 and 14 months old, and an average sensitivity score was calculated. Attachment disorganization was observed during the Strange Situation when infants were 14 months old, and mothers reported on infants' behavior problems when infants were 27 months old. Over and above covariates, mothers' arousal and regulation while parenting interacted to predict infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems such that maternal arousal was associated with higher attachment disorganization and behavior problems when maternal regulation was low but not when maternal regulation was high. This effect was direct and not explained by maternal sensitivity. The results suggest that maternal physiological dysregulation while parenting places infants at risk for psychopathology.

Additional Information

Development and Psychopathology, 29, 245-257
Language: English
Date: 2017
maternal physiological dysregulation, infant attachment disorganization, infant behavior problems, maternal sensitivity

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