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05-03-2018 | Original Paper | Uitgave 6/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 6/2018

Parental Attachment Dimensions and Parenting Stress: The Mediating Role of Parental Reflective Functioning

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 6/2018
Liesbet Nijssens, Dries Bleys, Sara Casalin, Nicole Vliegen, Patrick Luyten


Research suggests that parental reflective functioning—the parent’s capacity to envision the mind of his/her child—may play an important role in the intergenerational transmission of attachment and reflective functioning. Studies also suggest the importance of this capacity for the transition to parenthood, and particularly parents’ capacity to deal with parenting stress. This study focused on the potential mediating role of PRF dimensions in the relationship between parental attachment dimensions (attachment anxiety and avoidance) and parenting stress, using data from a 1-year longitudinal study in biological first-time parents (N = 106). Structural equation modeling showed that parents’ use of prementalizing modes of reflecting upon their child (PM) fully mediated the relationship between attachment anxiety and three parenting stress dimensions (marital relationship, role restriction, and social isolation) across a 1-year interval, while attachment avoidance was indirectly related to these parenting stress dimensions through PM. Further, PM partially mediated the relationship between parental attachment anxiety and avoidance and a fourth dimension of parenting stress, lack of trust in parental competence. In addition, multi-group analyses revealed some interesting gender differences. Implications of these findings for the conceptualization of the relationship between parental attachment, PRF, and parenting stress are discussed.

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