Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Intergenerational transmission of attachment in abused and neglected mothers: the role of trauma-specific reflective functioning.

There are still important gaps in our knowledge regarding the intergenerational transmission of attachment from mother to child, especially in mothers with childhood histories of abuse and neglect (CA&N). This study examined the contributions of reflective function concerning general attachment relationships, and specifically concerning trauma, as well as those of maternal attachment states of mind to the prediction of infant attachment disorganization in a sample of mothers with CA&N and their infants, using a 20-month follow-up design. Attachment and reflective functioning were assessed during pregnancy with the Adult Attachment Interview. Infant attachment was evaluated with the Strange Situation Procedure. The majority (83%) of infants of abused and neglected mothers were classified as insecure, and a significant proportion (44%) manifested attachment disorganization. There was a strong concordance between mother and child attachment, indicative of intergenerational transmission of attachment in parents with CA&N and their infants. Both unresolved trauma and trauma-specific reflective function made significant contributions to explaining variance in infant attachment disorganization. The findings of this study highlight the importance of trauma-specific mentalization in the intergenerational transmission of attachment by mothers with a history of childhood maltreatment, and provide new evidence of the importance of the absence of mentalization regarding trauma for infant attachment.

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