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03-04-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 7/2017

Journal of Child and Family Studies 7/2017

The Role of Separation Anxiety in Mothers’ Use of Autonomy Support: An Observational Study

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 7/2017
Auteurs:
Dorien Wuyts, Bart Soenens, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Stijn Van Petegem, Katrijn Brenning

Abstract

Parental separation anxiety has been identified as a detrimental factor for parent-adolescent relationship quality and, ultimately, for adolescents’ psychosocial adjustment. However, few studies have examined how separation anxiety is related to parents’ style of interaction with their adolescent, which is unfortunate as this interaction style could explain why separation anxiety is related to negative outcomes. The present study (a) examined the association between maternal separation anxiety and mothers’ autonomy-supportive, relative to controlling, conversation style as observed in mother-adolescent interactions about the adolescents’ friendships, and (b) investigated the link between maternal separation anxiety and mothers’ personal experiences during the conversation. A total of 62 mother–adolescent dyads (M age mothers = 44 years, M age adolescents = 14 years) were willing to participate in this study. After mothers filled out a measure of separation anxiety, mothers’ autonomy-supportive and controlling practices were observed and coded during a 10-min conversation. Further, mothers reported on their emotional and motivational experiences during the conversation. Mothers high on separation anxiety were observed to be less autonomy-supportive and to experience the conversation as more stressful (e.g., more pressure, more tension, and more relief at the end). Clinically, our results suggest that maternal separation anxiety is an important target for intervention and prevention efforts aimed at promoting autonomy-supportive parenting.

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