Danskin, Kerri A. (2016). The impact of experience on beliefs about motherhood. Doctoral dissertation (Psychology), New School for Social Research of the New School University.

Abstract: While the intergenerational transmission of trauma is well documented, its mechanisms remain inadequately understood. The present study draws from Mesman, van IJzendoorn, Behrens, Carbonell, Rodrigo Cárcamo, et al. (2015) in asking 47 Black, Latina, and White American mothers to share their beliefs about an “ideal mother,” and expands upon Mesman’s work by investigating the impact of adverse childhood experiences and current parenting stress on those beliefs. Mothers’ beliefs about an “ideal mother” were found to be relatively consistent across ethnic groups. However, mothers who had more adverse experiences in childhood, both overall and in the specific areas of parental incarceration, physical neglect, and emotional neglect, were found to have beliefs about an “ideal mother” that were less consistent with a prototypically sensitive mother than mothers with fewer adverse experiences. The study does not find statistically significant associations between current parenting stress and beliefs about an “ideal mother.” Further analysis demonstrated that mothers of only male children had beliefs about an “ideal mother” that were less consistent with the prototypically sensitive mother than did mothers of only female children or of both genders. Discussion of these results outlines the possible role of adverse childhood experiences generally, and specifically parental absence, in the construction of internal working models of caregivers, which may contribute to parental behavior and affective states that could impact the intergenerational transmission of attachment.

Kerri A Danskin <kdanskin> is currently a postdoctoral fellow in clinical psychology and with the University Health Services, McCosh Health Center, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ (USA).

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