Academic journal article Social Work Research

Resilient Parenting: Overcoming Poor Parental Bonding

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Resilient Parenting: Overcoming Poor Parental Bonding

Article excerpt

This study identified groups of mothers with varying patterns of adaptive functioning and bonds with their own parents. These patterns were related to mothers' parenting of their own children to understand how some mothers avoid repeating the cycle of poor parenting. Data from 210 new mothers were analyzed before hospital discharge about bonding with their caregivers during childhood and six to 12 months later about adaptive functioning, life circumstances, and parenting. Latent duster analysis identified four distinct groups of mothers with regard to parental bonds and adaptive functioning: positive-adaptive mothers (good bonding and good adaptive functioning), positive-maladaptive mothers (good bonding and poor adaptive functioning), resilient mothers (poor bonding and good adaptive functioning), and vulnerable mothers (poor bonding and poor adaptive functioning). Despite poor parental bonds, resilient mothers were coping as well as the positive-adaptive mothers and were significantly less likely to experience parenting stress related to the parenting role, unsatisfying interactions with their infants, and attributions of their children as difficult to care for. Some mothers were able to overcome poor bonds with their own caregivers to develop good adaptive functioning in adulthood and provide good parenting to their own children.

KEY WORDS: infants; latent cluster analysis; parenting; resilience


It is widely accepted that parenting behaviors and styles are transmitted across generations (Belsky, Jaffee, Sligo, Woodward, & Silva, 2005). Child abuse and harsh discipline, for example, are frequently linked to parents' childhood experiences, and childhood abuse or harsh parenting is considered to be a risk factor for engaging in similar parenting (Dixon, Browne, & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005a, 2005b). Less research has examined continuity of positive parenting, but recent evidence has suggested that it, too, is transmitted from one generation to the next (Chen & Kaplan, 2001).

Discontinuity of parenting styles and behavior has received less attention, but it has also been of interest in the study of abused children because a significant proportion of abused or harshly parented individuals grow up to be nonabusing parents (for example, Egeland, Jacobvitz, & Sroufe, 1988). Egeland and associates found that mothers who broke the cycle of abuse reported supportive relationships with nonparental adults during childhood and supportive relationships with their mates. Caliso and Milner (1992) also reported that having a supportive relationship with a partner predicted breaking the cycle of abuse and that parents who had been abused as children but did not abuse their own children had different parenting attitudes than those who continued the pattern of abusive parenting.

Examining recollections of parenting received by mothers, some authors have found correlations with those mothers' parenting of their own children (Hammond, Landry, Swank, & Smith, 2000). In contrast, Adler and colleagues (1991) did not find such an association in a low-risk sample. They suggested that stress may mediate the relation between parental bonds and quality of parenting, so the absence of risk factors and high stress in their sample might explain their findings.

Phelps and colleagues (1998) used the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) to investigate the role of stress, comparing the parenting of mothers who reported secure parental bonds, those who reported insecure bonds, and those described as "earned secures," who reported insecure bonds but articulated resolution of their feelings about the relationships. Under both high and low stress, the parenting of earned secure mothers did not differ from that of continuously secure mothers. The parenting of mothers who reported insecure bonds, on the other hand, was dependent on stress level. …

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