Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Impact of Maternal Directiveness and Overprotectiveness on the Personality Development of a Sample of Individuals with Acquired Blindness

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Impact of Maternal Directiveness and Overprotectiveness on the Personality Development of a Sample of Individuals with Acquired Blindness

Article excerpt

The literature has frequently shown how mothers of children with blindness tend to be highly directive and overprotective with their children. This study investigated whether this maternal interactive style can have negative consequences on the psychological development of persons with acquired blindness, or whether it can be considered functional and appropriate to these individuals' needs during childhood. This aim was pursued by adopting attachment theory as a conceptual reference and administering the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) to a sample of participants with early onset blindness. Results suggested that, as long as mothers are loving and are sensitive to their children's needs, their greater physical intervention and control of child exploration can play an important role in helping their severely sight-impaired children develop secure and well-balanced personalities.

Keywords: attachment, acquired blindness, directiveness, overprotectiveness, personality development.

There is broad consensus in the literature that directive and overprotective maternal behavior can be disadaptive and dysfunctional for children's psychological development. Marfo (1992) defined maternal directiveness as any systematic use of commands, requests, and other control behavior aimed at inducing a child to adopt a parent-desired conduct. Highly frequent directive behavior has been thought to be harmful to preschool-aged children's social and cognitive development (Murray & Hornbaker, 1997), and overprotectiveness also seems to play a determining role in the development of many psychopathological and antisocial disorders (Reti et al., 2002; Thomasgard, 1998).

A high frequency of directive and overprotective maternal behavior has been systematically observed in research investigating the verbal and nonverbal interactive behavior of mothers with their severely visually-impaired children (Behl, Akers, Boyce, & Taylor, 1996; Dote-Kwan, 1995; Hughes, Dote-Kwan, & Dolendo, 1999; Imamura, 1965; Kekelis & Andersen, 1984; Moore & McConachie, 1994; Pérez-Pereira & Conti-Ramsden, 2001). One open question, however, is whether this particular interactive style has the same negative effects on blind children as it does on sighted children, or whether it can be considered functional to the psychological development of the severely sight-impaired.

Behl et al. (1996) conducted a study on the interactive behavior of mothers with their severely or totally sight-impaired children, aged 15-61 months. They found that these mothers were more physically involved during interaction with their children and more frequently used verbal control strategies than did mothers of children with no visual deficit. Kekelis and Andersen (1984) also observed similar behavior during daily sighted-mother/blind-child communicative interaction, finding that the language used by these mothers was highly directive and was characterized by many imperatives and few descriptive linguistic acts. Kekelis and Andersen proposed that this type of maternal behavior had the primary goal of controlling children's attention and behavior, rather than soliciting a mutual exchange of information and communicative interaction based on sharing. Kekelis and Andersen therefore negatively interpreted directive maternal behavior, considering it deleterious to the psychological development of blind children. Their conclusions diverged considerably from the proposal of Behl et al. (1996) that mothers of severely sight-impaired children are directive because they tend to adapt their behavior to their children's special needs.

Moore and McConachie (1994) examined the communicative styles of the mothers of eight children with total blindness and eight children with severe visual impairment in daily interaction. Results showed that totally blind children and children with critical visual impairment received more exhortations to act than any other type of request. …

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