Effects on a family of a child with chronic illness have been described. The Impact on Family Scale (IOF) was developed to measure these effects. The impact of extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants with neurodevelopmental impairment on families is unknown. This study determined IOF scores for families of ELBW infants with increasing degree of impairment at 18 months and identified factors that increase vulnerability to impact. A total of 3,849 ELBW infant survivors born at the 16 centers of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network between January 1993 and February 2001 were assessed at 18 to 22 months. Infants were divided into four groups by degree of impairment. IOF scores were analyzed by impairment group. Multivariate analyses assessed effects of impairment, social/demographic factors, unmet service needs, and resource utilization on the IOF. A total of 1,624 (42.2%) infants had moderate/severe impairment. Increasing severity of impairment was associated with higher IOF scores. Severity of impairment contributed 6% of variance to the IOF scores. Twenty-one percent of variance was contributed by additional medical needs, low socioeconomic status (SES), and lack of social support. Although increasing severity of impairment impacts families of ELBW infants, significantly more impact is contributed by additional medical needs, low SES, and lack of social support.
This study examined short-term attachment stability and sought to identify predictors of stability and change within a sample characterized by fathers' alcoholism. Results suggest moderate stability of attachment classifications (60% for mothers, 53% for fathers) from 12 to 18 months. Higher paternal and maternal alcohol symptoms, maternal depression, and maternal antisocial behavior were found in families with stable insecure mother-infant attachment compared to those who were stable secure. Mother-infant stable insecurity was associated with higher levels of maternal negative affect expression during play. Father-infant stable insecurity was associated with lower levels of paternal positive affect expression and decreased sensitivity during play. Stable insecure children also had higher levels of negative affect during parent-infant interactions and higher negative emotionality during other episodes compared to stable secure children. Results indicate that infants who were insecure at both time points had the highest constellation of family risk characteristics.
A residential treatment program has been developed specifically for substance-abusing pregnant and parenting women in Finland, focusing on simultaneously supporting maternal abstinence from substances and the mother-baby relationship. The aims of the study are to explore maternal pre- and postnatal reflective functioning and its association with background factors, maternal exposure to trauma, and psychiatric symptoms, postnatal interaction, child development, and later child foster care placement. Participants were 34 mother-baby pairs living in three residential program units during the pre- to postnatal period. We employed self-report questionnaires on background, trauma history, and psychiatric symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory: L.R. Derogatis, 1993; Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale: J.L. Cox, J.M. Holden, & R. Sagovsky, 1987; Traumatic Antecedents Questionnaire: B. Van der Kolk, 2003), videotaped mother-child interactions coded for sensitivity, control, and unresponsiveness (Care Index for Infants and Toddlers: P. Crittenden, 2003); a standardized test of child development (Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II: N. Bayley, 1993); and semistructured interviews for maternal reflective functioning (Pregnancy Interview: A. Slade, E. Bernbach, J. Grienenberger, D.W. Levy, & A. Locker, 2002; Parent Development Interview: A. Slade et al., 2005). Pre- and postnatal maternal reflective functioning (RF) was on average low, but varied considerably across participants. Average RF increased significantly during the intervention. Increase in RF level was found to be associated with type of abused substance and maternal trauma history. Mothers who showed lower postnatal RF levels relapsed to substance use more often after completing a residential treatment period, and their children were more likely to be placed in foster care. The intensive focus on maternal RF is an important direction in the development of efficacious treatment for this very high risk population.
Substance abuse during early motherhood has become a significant problem and has led to accelerated efforts to develop specific treatment facilities for these mothers and children. Despite the often intensive treatment efforts in residential settings, there is surprisingly little evidence of their efficacy for enhancing the quality of caregiving. The situation of these mother-child pairs is exceptionally complex and multilevel, and has to be taken into account in the content and structuring of treatment. Intensive work in the "here and now" focusing on the mother-child relationship from pregnancy onwards in an effort to enhance maternal reflective capacity and mindedness is considered a key element for better treatment prognosis, in terms of both abstinence and quality of parenting. Pioneering work with such a focus is described in this article.
This case-study presents in detail the clinical assessment of a 29-year-old mother and her daughter who first presented to infant mental health specialists at age 16-months, with a hospital record suggesting the presence of a dyadic disturbance since age 8-months. Data from psychiatric and neurological assessments, as well as observational measures of child and mother are reviewed with attention to issues of disturbed attachment, intergenerational trauma, and cultural factors for this inner-city Latino dyad. Severe maternal affect dysregulation in the wake of chronic, early-onset violent-trauma exposure manifested as psychogenic seizures, referred to in the mother's native Spanish as "ataques de nervios," the latter, an idiom of distress, commonly associated with childhood trauma and dissociation. We explore the mechanisms by which the mothers' reexperiencing of violent traumatic experience, together with physiologic hyperarousal and associated negative affects, are communicated to the very young child and the clinician-observer via action and language from moment to moment during the assessment process. The paper concludes with a discussion of diagnostic and treatment implications by Drs. Marshall, Gaensbauer, and Zeanah.
Recent high-risk longitudinal studies have documented a unique contribution of the quality of the early mother-child relationship to diverse forms of psychopathology in young adulthood, even with family economic status, later traumatic experiences, and some genetic factors controlled. In addition, measures of attachment-related deviations in caregiver-infant interaction predict more than measures of infant attachment behavior alone. This article reviews those findings in the context of cross-disciplinary thinking on the importance of shared subjectivities in human evolution and development and in the context of recent studies beginning to map the intersection between processes of interaction and the development of the child's propensities to share mental states with others.
Maternal mental health and prenatal stress are linked with neurobehavioral differences in the offspring. The majority of studies documenting this effect have been conducted using either predominantly European American infants or minority infants exposed to teratogens in utero. In this study, we focus on healthy African American women from low-income environments to investigate the earliest individual differences in biobehavioral regulation, including resting heart rate and variability (HRV). In 87 neonates, HRV was significantly lower in those born to mothers reporting past major depressive disorder (p = .01). The number of maternal life stressors also was associated with lower neonatal HRV (p = .03). Obstetrical complications were not associated with significant differences, but breast- versus bottle-feeding in the first few days of life was related to higher HRV (p = .04). Early variation in physiological regulation may be linked to subsequent individual differences in response to stress. Thus, identifying the earliest point in development when such differences can be reliably measured may result in opportunities for prevention of later deficits in regulating response to stress.
This study examined the association between paternal alcoholism and 12-month infant temperament and 18-month behavior problems. The role of associated parental psychopathology and maternal drinking in exacerbating risk for maladaptive behavioral outcomes was also examined. Participants were 213 families (102 control families, 94 paternal alcoholic families, and 17 families with alcoholic fathers and heavy drinking mothers) who were assessed when their child was 12 months old and reassessed again when their child was 18 months old. Infants of alcoholics displayed marginally more stubborn/persistent temperaments at 12 months of age, but significantly more internalizing problems at 18 months. Analyses suggested that internalizing problems in the infants of alcoholics could be attributed to the paternal depression concomitant with paternal alcoholism. In addition, an interaction was observed, indicating that paternal alcohol problems predicted 18-month externalizing problems among families with low maternal depression, but not among families with high maternal depression. Children of depressed mothers exhibited uniformly higher externalizing scores, but were not further impacted by paternal alcohol problems. However, children of nondepressed mothers were adversely affected by fathers' drinking as reflected by higher externalizing behavior scores. The results highlight the necessity of addressing the overall contextual risks that occur with paternal alcoholism in studies of the development of children in alcoholic families.
The present study examined associations between parents' levels of acculturation depressive symptoms, family support, and couple relationship quality with coparenting conflict. We also explored the effects of coparenting conflict on parenting and infant social development in a sample of low-income Mexican American (n=735) infants (age 9 months) and their parents. Results indicated that couple conflict was the strongest predictor of coparenting conflict. Coparenting conflict had a significant effect on mother-infant interaction and father engagement. The effects of coparenting on father caregiving varied by father's level of acculturation; when there is high coparenting conflict, more acculturated fathers engaged in more caregiving than less acculturated fathers. Coparenting conflict was not predictive of infant social development.
Few studies have evaluated the separate contributions of maltreatment and ongoing quality of parent-child interaction to the etiology of antisocial personality features using a prospective longitudinal design. 120 low-income young adults (aged 18-23) were assessed for extent of ASPD features on the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnosis-Axis II, for presence of maltreatment on the Conflict Tactics Scale, Traumatic Experiences Scale, and Adult Attachment Interview, and for referral in infancy to parent-infant clinical services. Fifty-six of these families had been studied longitudinally since the first year of life. In infancy, attachment disorganization and disrupted mother-infant interaction were assessed; in middle childhood, disorganized-controlling attachment behaviors were reliably rated. In kindergarten and second grade, behavior problems were assessed by teacher report. In cross-sectional analyses, maltreatment was significantly associated with ASPD features but did not account for the independent effect of early referral to parent-infant services on ASPD features. In longitudinal analyses, maternal withdrawal in infancy predicted the extent of ASPD features twenty years later, independently of childhood abuse. In middle childhood, disorganized attachment behavior and maladaptive behavior at school added to prediction of later ASPD features. Antisocial features in young adulthood have precursors in the minute-to-minute process of parent-child interaction beginning in infancy.
The objective of this study was to assess whether a mediated model of change could account for the long-term effects of infant home-visiting services observed at ages 5 and 7 years in a high-risk cohort. Participants were 41 mothers and infants from low-income families who were referred to parent-infant home-visiting services during the first 9 months of life due to concerns about the caretaking environment. Services ended when infants reached 18 months of age. Families received between 0 and 18 months of weekly home visits based on infant age of entry into the study. During childhood (ages 5 and 7 years), teachers rated children's behavior problems using standardized instruments. Early home-visiting services accounted for positive child outcomes at 18 months, 5 years, and 7 years of age; however, earlier positive outcomes related to intervention did not account for intervention-related effects at later ages. Further inspection of the data revealed that two additional principles, one of escalating morbidity among less intensively served groups and one of generalized family problem-solving skills, were needed to account for the pattern of effects over time. We conclude that the "domino models" assessed by mediational analyses may be too simple to capture the intervention-related change processes occurring in high-risk cohorts over time.
Parenting and emotion regulation are two known, and potentially interrelated, areas of impairment among substance-abusing mothers. In this study, we examine substance -abusing mothers' (positive and negative) emotion language word use during their discussion of negative parenting experiences on the Parent Development Interview for its association with reflective functioning (RF), recent substance-use history, and sensitivity to child cues. Within a sample of 47 methadone-maintained mothers, we evaluate the hypothesis that linguistic evidence of emotional avoidance (more frequent positive feeling words and less frequent negative emotion words) will be associated with lower RF, more recent substance use, and more insensitive parenting. Further, we evaluate whether language use mediates the association between self-focused RF and insensitive parenting. Results of hierarchical regressions suggest that more frequent positive feeling word use, but not negative emotion word use, is associated with lower RF, more recent substance use, and lower sensitivity to child cues. Positive feeling word use partially mediates the association between self-focused RF and insensitive parenting. Results are discussed in the context of their contribution to the literature on emotion and parenting in substance-abusing populations.
Previously, we reported posttreatment findings from a randomized pilot study testing a new attachment-based parenting intervention for mothers enrolled in substance-use treatment and caring for children ages birth to 3 years (N.E. Suchman, C. DeCoste, N. Castiglioni, T. McMahon, B. Rounsaville, & L. Mayes, 2010). The Mothers and Toddlers Program (MTP) is a 12-session, weekly individual parenting therapy that aims to enhance maternal capacity for reflective functioning and soften harsh and distorted mental representations of parenting. In a randomized pilot study, 47 mothers who were enrolled in outpatient substance-abuse treatment and caring for children between birth and 3 years of age were randomized to the MTP versus the Parent Education Program (PE), a comparison intervention that provided individual case management and developmental guidance. At the end of treatment, mothers in the MTP condition demonstrated better reflective functioning, representation quality, and caregiving behavior than did mothers in the PE condition. In this investigation, we examined whether the benefits of MTP at posttreatment were sustained at the 6-week follow-up. Recently, we also identified two components of parental reflective functioning: (a) a self-focused component representing the parent's capacity to mentalize about strong personal emotions (e.g., anger, guilt, or pain) and their impact on the child and (b) a child-focused component representing the parent's capacity to mentalize about the child's emotions and their impact on the mother (N. Suchman, C. DeCoste, D. Leigh, & J. Borelli, 2010). In this study, we reexamined posttreatment outcomes using these two related, but distinct, constructs.
Although it has been well-documented that parents and children who experience homelessness often have compromised health and well-being, few studies have examined the potential implications of homelessness on the process of parenting young children. In this review, we consider how parents of young children might function under the circumstances of homelessness. We begin with a brief overview of the psychological, social, and medical characteristics of homeless mothers and their young children. Using a developmental attachment perspective, we next briefly review the central tasks of parenting during the first 5 years of life, including emotion regulation and fostering of child autonomy, with an eye toward how homelessness may compromise a mother's ability to complete these tasks. Finally, we provide suggestions for further research that incorporate a developmental attachment perspective and other relevant viewpoints. Because of the paucity of research in this area, our review seeks to provide a heuristic framework for future research, intervention development, and policy.
Although randomized controlled trials examining the efficacy of attachment-based interventions have been increasing in recent years, adequate measurement of treatment integrity, integrity-outcome associations, and mechanisms of change has been rare. The aim of this investigation was to conduct a rigorous test of proposed mechanisms of change in the Mothers and Toddlers Program (MTP) treatment model, a 12-session, attachment-based individual therapy for substance-using mothers of children birth to 3 years of age. The MTP aims to improve maternal reflective functioning (RF) and representation quality (RQ) to bring about second-order change in maternal caregiving behavior. Following guidelines from M.K. Nock (2007), it was hypothesized that (a) therapist adherence to unique MTP treatment components would uniquely predict improvement in RF and RQ and that (b) improvement in RF and RQ would function as unique mechanisms of change (when compared with other potential mechanisms-reduction in depression and increase in abstinence from drug use) in the improvement of caregiving behavior. Findings supported each hypothesis, confirming the proposed mechanisms of the treatment model. However, improvement in maternal depression also uniquely predicted improvement in caregiving behavior. Results underscore the potential value of attachment-based parenting interventions for improving mother-child relations and the importance of providing these interventions in clinic settings where mothers have access to comprehensive care (e.g., psychiatric services).
Cost-efficient prenatal assessments are needed that have the potential to identify those at risk for parent/infant relational problems. With this goal in mind, an additional attachment style description was added to the Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991), an established self-report attachment measure, to create the Relationship Questionnaire: Clinical Version (RQ-CV). The additional description represents a profoundly-distrustful attachment style: "I think it's a mistake to trust other people. Everyone's looking out for themselves, so the sooner you learn not to expect anything from anybody else the better." The RQ-CV was applied to a sample of 44 low-income mothers who had participated in a previous study of the impact of family risk factors on infant development. After first controlling for demographic risk factors and for other insecure adult attachment styles, mother's profound-distrust was associated with three independent assessments of the quality of maternal interactions with the infant assessed 20 years earlier. In particular, profound-distrust was related to more hostile, intrusive, and negative behaviors toward the infant. The results are discussed within the framework of attachment theory.
Infants in foster care need sensitive, responsive caregivers to promote their healthy outcomes. The current study examined the effectiveness of the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up Intervention, a short-term, targeted, attachment-based intervention program designed to promote sensitive caregiving behavior among foster mothers. Ninety-six foster mother-infant dyads participated in this study; 44 dyads were assigned to the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up Intervention, and 52 dyads were assigned to a control intervention. Results of hierarchical linear modeling indicated that foster mothers who were assigned to the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up Intervention showed greater improvements in their sensitivity from pre- to postintervention assessment time points when compared with foster mothers who were assigned to the control intervention. We conclude that a short-term, targeted, attachment-based intervention is effective in changing foster mothers' responsiveness to their foster infants, which is critical for foster infants' healthy socioemotional adjustment.
Infants born preterm are at elevated risk for social emotional difficulties. However, factors contributing to this risk are largely understudied. Within the present study, we explored infant sleep as a biosocial factor that may play a role in infant social emotional development. Within a prospective longitudinal design, we examined parent-reported sleep patterns and observed parenting quality as predictors of infant-mother attachment in 171 infants born preterm. Using structural equation modeling, we examined main effect and moderator models linking infant sleep patterns and parenting with attachment security. Sleep patterns characterized by more daytime sleep and positive/responsive parenting predicted infant attachment security. Parent-reported nighttime sleep patterns were unrelated to attachment in this sample of infants born preterm. These results indicate that daytime sleep and parenting quality may be important for emerging attachment relationships in infants born preterm.
In this article, recent research on parenting behaviors associated with infant attachment disorganization is summarized and applied to a parent-infant psychotherapy case. Both hostile/self-referential and helpless-fearful patterns of parentingare described and viewed theoretically as alternate aspects of a single hostile-helpless internal working model of attachment relationships. The case material focuses on the more subtle and harder to identify manifestations of a helpless-fearful parental stance. Some attachment-related treatment guidelines for working with a hostile-helpless parenting stance are suggested, including challenging the hostile-helpless model implicitly in the qualities of the therapist's approach to the parent, explicitly articulating the hostile-helpless bind with the parent, increasing the parent's openness to a wider range of affective experience, differentiating attachment-related needs from other communications of the baby, and developing new skills for balancing the needs of the self and the needs of the other in interaction with the baby.
Taylor and colleagues (2000) proposed that males tend to display fight or flight responses to threat while females are more likely to display affiliative "tend or befriend" responses. In light of this hypothesis, gender differences in infant attachment behaviors were examined in a sample of 65 low-income mother-infant dyads, half of whom were referred to a home-based intervention service because of concerns about the quality of caregiving. Attachment behaviors were assessed in the Ainsworth Strange Situation when infants were 18 months old, and maternal behaviors were coded both for frightened or frightening behaviors, using the Main and Hesse (1992) coding inventory, and for disrupted affective communication using the Atypical Maternal Behavior Instrument for Assessment and Classification assessment tool (AMBIANCE; Lyons-Ruth, Bronfman, & Parsons, 1999). Results indicated that as maternal behavior became more frightening, female infants tended to approach their mothers more than male infants. These gender differences in response to maternal frightening behavior also were evident in the clinically referred subsample. The results suggest that gender-based differences in tendencies to show affiliative behaviors to threat may complicate interpretation of attachment behavior in clinical contexts.
Disorganized/controlling attachment in preschool has been found to be associated with maternal and child maladjustment, making it of keen interest in the study of psychopathology. Additional work is needed, however, to better understand disorganized/controlling attachment occurring as early as age three. The primary aims of this study were to evaluate risk factors and outcomes associated with disorganized/controlling behavior at age three and to evaluate the risk factors and outcomes differentiating the four subtypes of disorganized/controlling attachment. Analyses were conducted with the first two phases of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a prospective study of 1,364 children from birth. At 36 months of age, across the attachment-relevant domains of maternal well-being, mother-child interactions, and child social adaptation, the disorganized/controlling group evidenced the most maladaptive patterns in comparison to both secure and insecure-organized groups. At 54 months of age, the disorganized/controlling group displayed the highest levels of internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, as rated by mothers and teachers, and the lowest quality relationships with teachers. Significant differences found among the disorganized/controlling subtypes indicated that the behaviorally disorganized and controlling-punitive subtypes had more maladaptive patterns across variables than did the controlling-caregiving and controlling-mixed subtypes.
This study explored the use of a brief experimental intervention that integrates principles of infant-parent psychotherapy, videofeedback, controlled exposure to child distress in the context of parental posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and stimulation of parental reflective functioning (RF). The Clinician Assisted Videofeedback Exposure Session (CAVES) was applied to 32 interpersonal violence-exposed mothers of very young children (8-50 months) with respect to change of maternal perception of her child. While we found no significant reduction over two videotaped assessment visits with a mental health professional, we did find a significant reduction in the degree of negativity of maternal attributions towards her child following the videotaped visit focused on the CAVES (p<.01). Maternal RF, a mother's capacity to think about mental states in herself and her child, accounted for 11% of the variance in reduction of maternal negativity after accounting for baseline levels of negativity. Clinician-assisted videofeedback appears to support emotional self-regulation of mothers with violence-related PTSD. Focusing with a therapist on videofeedback of child separation distress exposes mothers to avoided mental states of helplessness and perceived loss of protection. Negative maternal attributions may mark violent trauma-associated emotion dysregulation and projected self-representations of the maltreated mother.