Psychological Science 2018, (3) 565-571 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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Keywords
attachment representations
maternal control behaviors
marital quality
toddlers
Authors
LIU Shi-Man
YU Zheng-Yan
ZHANG Ying
JIANG Qun
ZHANG Qian
PubMed
Article by Liu,S.M
Article by Yu,Z.Y
Article by Zhang,y
Article by Jiang,q
Article by Zhang,q

Preoccupied/unresolved Attachment Representations and Control Behaviors among Mothers of Toddlers: Moderating Effects of Marital Quality and Child Gender

Abstract

Maternal control behaviors during toddlerhood exert long-term impacts on children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. Maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations have been found to be associated with negative control. However, the associations between maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and control behaviors have not yet been explored systematically and the potential moderating mechanisms by which these effects occur remain to be examined. What’s more, most of the studies are cross-sectional. The present study investigated the longitudinal associations between maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and control behaviors, and focused principally on the moderating roles of marital quality and child gender. Participants included 94 mothers and their toddlers (41 boys, 53 girls; Mage = 1.17 years, SD = 0.07 at T1; Mage = 2.07 years, SD = 0.09 at T2; Mage = 3.15 years, SD = 0.09 at T3) in urban areas of Beijing, China. Both maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and marital quality were assessed by mother report using Adult-to-parental Attachment Experience Survey (AAES) and Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test at 1 year of child age (T1). Maternal control behaviors which included gentle control, command control and forceful control were coded through 10-minite videotapes of mother-child interactions at T1, T2, and T3. The percentages of missing data for all study variables were between 13.33% and 22.22%. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the moderating effects of marital quality and child gender after imputing missing values using expectation maximization (EM). Both maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and marital quality were mean centered prior to analysis. The results showed that: (1) The preoccupied/unresolved dimension of the AAES was not significantly related to marital quality and control behaviors at T1 and T2, whereas preoccupied/unresolved dimension was significantly?associated?with forceful control at T3, controlling for forceful control at T1. (2) Marital quality moderated the associations between preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations, and gentle control and command control at T3. Specifically, preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations were related to subsequent low levels of gentle control and high levels of command control at T3 among mothers with low levels of marital quality, whereas preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations were not related to either gentle control or command control among mothers with high levels of marital quality. (3) Marital quality moderated the associations between preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and forceful control at T3 in conjunction with child gender, such that marital quality moderated the links between preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and forceful control among mothers of boys. The present study enriched attachment theory by showing that maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations exert longitudinal impacts on maternal forceful control during toddlerhood, and marital quality modifies the longitudinal links between maternal preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and control behaviors. Marital quality emerges as a protective factor that buffers against the detrimental effects of preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations on gentle control and direct command control for all mothers, whereas marital quality mitigates the negative impacts of preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations on forceful control only for mothers of boys. The moderating effects of marital quality and child gender in the relationships between preoccupied/unresolved attachment representations and control behaviors detected in the current study have important implications in early prevention and intervention efforts.

Keywords attachment representations   maternal control behaviors   marital quality   toddlers  
Received 2017-06-12 Revised 2018-01-17 Online: 2018-05-20 
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Corresponding Authors: Zheng-Yan WANG
Email: wangzhengyan@cnu.edu.cn
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