Using a longitudinal design, this study examined the relationship of a mother’s prenatal representation of her child and her parenting behavior with that child at one-year-of-age in a sample of women who were either exposed or not exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) (n = 164; mean child age = 1.1 years, sd = .11 years; 52% male). Controlling for prenatal IPV, a MANCOVA analysis revealed that prenatal representational typology was significantly related to parenting behavior one year post-partum. Mothers whose representations were affectively deactivated (disengaged) were more behaviorally controlling with their children. Mothers whose representations were affectively overactivated (distorted) were more hostile with their children. Mothers with balanced representations demonstrated more positive parenting. Exposure to IPV did not moderate this relationship. There was no direct association between pre-natal or post-natal IPV and parenting behavior. These findings suggest that prenatal representations influence postnatal parenting behavior in significant and theoretically consistent ways and that this relationship functions similarly for both abused and non-abused women. Results add to the growing literature that internal representations serve to guide behavior throughout development and suggest that maternal working models may be one important link in the intergenerational transmission of attachment relationships.
Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence | Family, Life Course, and Society | Social Work
Dayton, C. J., Levendosky, A. A., Davison, W. S., & Bogat, G. A. (2010). The child as held in the mind of the mother: The influence of prenatal maternal representations on parenting behaviors. Infant Mental Health Journal 31(2), 220-241.