Parental Mentalizing as an Indirect Link Between Attachment Anxiety and Parenting Satisfaction

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Abstract

Attachment anxiety in parents is associated with lower quality parent–child relationships. An inhibited capacity to reflect on children’s mental states, referred to as prementalizing, may reduce the pleasure parents derive from their relationships. In the current study, we explored the associations among attachment anxiety, prementalizing, and parenting satisfaction in two groups of participants randomly assigned either to reflect on a positive memory with their child (n = 150) or to reflect on a positive memory not involving their child (n = 150). Narratives were evaluated for positive content using two metrics: coder-rated positivity and frequency of positive emotion words. Results revealed that self-reported prementalizing operated indirectly to link attachment anxiety and self-reported parenting satisfaction for both groups. However, prementalizing only served as an indirect link between attachment anxiety and coded measures of positivity among participants who reflected on parenting experiences, suggesting the specificity of prementalizing in linking attachment anxiety and reduced positivity in the parenting role. The results have implications for understanding influences of attachment and mentalization on parents’ perception of parent–child relationship quality.

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