Reference : Mental health and wellbeing in adolescence: The role of child attachment and parents'...
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Treatment & clinical psychology
Mental health and wellbeing in adolescence: The role of child attachment and parents' representations of their children
Decarli, Alessandro mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Integrative Research Unit: Social and Individual Development (INSIDE) >]
University of Luxembourg, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur en Psychologie
Vögele, Claus mailto
Pierrehumbert, Blaise mailto
Schulz, André mailto
Schiltz, Christine mailto
Barone, Lavinia mailto
[en] Adolescence ; Attachment ; Mental Health
[en] The aim of the current research was to explore the effects of attachment on emotion
regulation, autonomy and relatedness, and behavioral problems in adolescence, and how
attachment is in turn influenced by parental reflective functioning (PRF), parenting behaviors
(operationalized in terms of behaviors promoting and undermining autonomy relatedness)
and parenting stress (in terms of cortisol reactivity). Participants were 49 adolescents (11 to
17 years old) and their mothers (N = 40) and fathers (N = 28). We assessed adolescents’
attachment representations with the Friends and Family Interview (FFI), PRF with the Parent
Development Interview (PDI), adolescents’ autonomy and relatedness, and parenting
behaviors with the Family Interaction Task (FIT), and behavioral problems with the Child
Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Youth Self-Report (YSR).
The first study showed that mothers had significantly lower PRF and displayed more
psychologically controlling behaviors in the interactions with their children than fathers.
Rather than gender per se, high levels of PRF were the best predictors of autonomy support,
whereas lower levels of PRF predicted more psychological control. Stress in the context of
parenting was neither related to autonomy support nor to psychological control, which were
best predicted by divorced family status. Finally, PRF mediated the relation between cortisol
reactivity and both autonomy support and psychological control. The results of the second
study suggest that higher levels of both maternal and paternal reflective functioning (RF)
predict attachment security, whereas lower maternal RF and higher levels of maternal hostile
parenting behaviors are the best predictors of disorganized attachment. Internalizing problem
behavior is best predicted by disorganized attachment and externalizing symptoms are best
predicted by dismissing attachment. These findings indicate that maternal behaviors play a
mediating role and might be the primary route through which mothers’ RF is translated and
communicated in the relationship with their adolescent children. Moreover, lower maternal
RF and hostile and threatening behaviors may have long term negative effects in adolescence,
contributing to attachment disorganization and poorer mental health. In the third study the
results showed that disorganized adolescents displayed higher heart rate variability (HRV)
than organized ones, both during the FFI and during the FITs. Dismissing adolescents
showed a more pronounced increase in HRV during the FFI than those classified as secure
and preoccupied; however, there were no differences between these groups in HRV during
the FITs. The results suggest that disorganized adolescents had more difficulties in regulating
their emotions both during the FFI and during the FIT, whereas dismissing individuals
seemed effectively challenged only during the interview.
The findings point to the potential utility of interventions aimed at enhancing
attachment security, thus allowing a better psychological adjustment, and at improving PRF,
especially in divorced families, given its protective effect on parenting stress and parenting
behaviors. Clinical implications are discussed.
FnR ; FNR10030107 > Alessandro Decarli > > Mental health and wellbeing during adolescence: The role of child attachment and parents’ representations of their children > 01/10/2015 > 30/09/2019 > 2015

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