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12-01-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 4/2019

Journal of Child and Family Studies 4/2019

Associations between Emotion Regulation and Parental Reflective Functioning

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 4/2019
Alysse M. Schultheis, Linda C. Mayes, Helena J. V. Rutherford
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Emotion regulation encapsulates the capability to successfully manage an ongoing emotional experience, particularly in social interactions, and thus may be especially significant to early parent-child relationships. In particular, the capacity to adjust emotions may support parental mentalization and reflective functioning – how parents think about their own and their child’s mental states and how these mental states effect behavior. To examine this issue, we investigated the association between emotion regulation, emotion dysregulation, and parental reflective functioning in a maternal sample (N = 97). We found that mothers with higher tendencies to suppress their emotions and who had more difficulties with emotion regulation engaged in greater levels of pre-mentalizing (i.e., a non-mentalizing mode). Mothers with poorer emotional awareness also evidenced less interest and curiosity in their child’s mental states. Finally, mothers who reported greater difficulty setting goals also evidenced a reduced capacity to recognize that their infant’s mental states are not directly observable. Taken together, our findings support the relationship between different aspects of emotion regulation and maternal reflective functioning, suggesting that emotion regulation should be integrated in empirical and intervention work that targets maternal mentalization.

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