Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne

Keywords

child, developmental, mentalization, parenting, trauma, women

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The present study examined the links between children's socio-emotional functioning and adjustment problems, and maternal mentalization, parenting style, and history of trauma. Participants were 75 mothers and their children age 6-12 years (43 males and 32 females). Mothers' reports of their childhood trauma, mentalization capacity, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression, and emotion-related parenting style were obtained along with their reports of their children's social and emotional skills and emotional and behaviour problems. Children completed tasks that assessed their mentalization ability. Children also completed reports of their emotional intelligence and trauma symptoms. Maternal history of emotional abuse significantly predicted maternal depression, and maternal history of sexual abuse significantly predicted maternal PTSD symptoms. Maternal depression and PTSD were both significantly related to children's social skills, and children's internalizing and externalizing problems. Maternal mentalization was significantly associated with children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, and children's social skills. After controlling for the effects of a history of maternal psychotherapy, maternal mentalization partially mediated the relationship between maternal PTSD symptoms and children's internalizing problems, and maternal mentalization fully mediated the relationship between maternal PTSD symptoms and children's social skills. Emotion-coaching parenting style did not mediate the relationship between maternal trauma and children's adjustment, however, parental uncertainty and ineffectiveness in emotion socialization were significantly associated with both maternal PTSD symptoms and children's internalizing and externalizing problems. These findings highlight the importance of maternal mentalization as an explanatory mechanism in the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and emphasize the need for early intervention and prevention efforts, which focus on bolstering mentalization abilities for traumatized mothers in a parenting role.

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