Reflective functioning in mothers with addictions: Differential relationships involving family history of mental illness and substance use

Amanda F. Lowell, Tal Yatziv, Elizabeth Peacock-Chambers, Amanda Zayde, Cindy DeCoste, Nancy Suchman, Thomas J. McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Parental reflective functioning (RF) is often cited as an important domain in which mothers with addictions struggle in their roles as parents, though the links between addiction and RF remain unclear. Exposure to attachment trauma associated with parental mental illness and substance use is commonly associated with both addiction and lower RF. We thus examined how family history of parental mental illness and substance use may relate to the RF of mothers with addictions. One hundred ninety-four mothers in outpatient substance use treatment completed the Parent Development Interview and provided information about whether their mothers and fathers experienced mental illness or problems with substance use. Univariate ANOVAs revealed an interaction between family history of maternal mental illness and maternal substance use. Among mothers with a history of maternal substance use, those with a history of maternal mental illness had higher RF than those who had no history of maternal mental illness. Among mothers who did not report a family history of maternal mental illness, mothers who had a family history of maternal substance use exhibited significantly lower RF than mothers with no family history of maternal substance use. Exposure to paternal mental illness or substance use was not associated with mothers’ RF. These findings highlight the importance of disentangling the contributions of attachment trauma to mothers’ RF and utilizing interventions that support mothers’ capacity to reflect about how their early experiences of being cared for by a mother with a mental illness or addiction may impact their current caregiving behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number911069
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
DOIs
StatePublished - 13 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • attachment trauma
  • early adversity
  • family history
  • maternal addiction
  • reflective functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)

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