Although much research examining youth psychopathology from an ecological family systems theoretical framework has highlighted negative or pathological parental characteristics, it is important to identify and explore beneficial parent characteristics, such as mindful attention and awareness, that may be related to youth mental health. Dispositional mindfulness has been related, in cross-sectional research, to higher levels of mindful parenting, which impacts positive and negative parenting and, in turn, offspring internalizing and externalizing symptoms. The current study expands this work by examining associations among caregiver dispositional mindful attention, mindful parenting, parenting behaviors, and youth psychopathology in a short-term longitudinal model and by testing potential moderators.
A sample of 564 parents (60% mothers) of children between the ages of 3 and 17 reported on their dispositional mindful attention, mindful parenting, positive and negative parenting practices, and their youth’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms at 4 time points over a 12-month period.
The structural equation model indicated that higher levels of baseline caregiver dispositional mindful attention were related to higher levels of mindful parenting at 4 months. Higher levels of mindful parenting were associated with higher levels of positive parenting and lower levels of negative parenting practices at 8 months. Finally, lower levels of negative parenting practices were related to lower levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms at 12 months. Moderator analyses suggested that all prospective associations in the model were equivalent for mothers and fathers, boys and girls, and children and adolescents.
Findings shed light on the importance of considering caregiver dispositional mindful attention as it relates to parenting behaviors and youth mental health.