Mothers' Self-focused Reflective Functioning Interacts with Childhood Experiences of Rejection to Predict Current Romantic Relationship Quality and Parenting Behavior.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Fam Process (2020)


<p>Parents exposed to rejection in their childhood could experience bonding disturbances in their current relationships. Reflective functioning (RF), the capacity to understand one's own and others' behavior through the lens of underlying mental states (cognitions, emotions), has been identified as a potential protective process. The aim of this longitudinal study was to examine whether RF moderates the effect of parents' experiences of rejection in childhood on later relationship functioning with partners and infants. Pregnant women with experiences of abuse and neglect were recruited and completed the Adult Attachment Interview, which was coded for RF and experiences of childhood rejection. During two follow-up assessments, when their infants were 5 and 17&nbsp;months old, the mothers in our sample who had partners reported on dyadic cohesion with these partners. Further, at 5&nbsp;months postnatal, mothers completed interaction tasks with their infants, which were later assessed using observational measures (i.e., CARE-Index). Results of mothers with partners (N&nbsp;=&nbsp;93) indicated that RF moderated the relationship between dyadic cohesion with partners at 17&nbsp;months only. Additionally, results with all mothers in the sample (N&nbsp;=&nbsp;108) indicated that RF moderated the relationship between retrospectively reported experiences of rejection and controlling and unresponsive behaviors with infants. Adequate-to-high RF was associated with lower unresponsiveness and higher relationship satisfaction in the context of rejection, while being associated with higher levels of control. These findings have important clinical implications, as RF is amenable to change and can therefore be more prominently implemented within various interventions.</p>

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