Intergenerational Transmission of Attachment between Incarcerated Mothers and Their Co-residing Children

2023 34(3): 173-180
DOI: 10.5080/u26647
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Objective: Maternal attachment representations and children’s
attachment to their mothers have been shown to be related while this
association varies according to socioeconomic risk factors that these
mother-child dyads are experiencing. In this regard, this study aims to
investigate the intergenerational transmission of attachment between
highly disadvantaged incarcerated mothers and their co-residing
children and the mediating role of maternal sensitivity in the relationship
between maternal and children’s attachment representations.
Method: The study sample consists of 84 incarcerated mothers and
their co-residing children. The maternal attachment was evaluated
using the Doll Story Completion Task. Children’s attachment and
maternal sensitivity were assessed based on a 45-minute semi-structured
mother-child interaction observation and rated through structured
coding instruments.
Results: Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that mothers’ anxious
and avoidant attachment positively predicted children’s disorganized
attachment behaviors. Moreover, analyses showed that maternal
sensitivity did not mediate the relationship between maternal and child
attachment representations.
Conclusion: Findings partially supported the discussion emphasizing
that attachment transmission, as well as the mediating role of
maternal sensitivity on this transmission, appeared to be weaker for
disadvantaged mother-child dyads. Implications for future intervention
programs aiming to support the attachment security and reduce the
disorganization of children co-residing with their incarcerated mothers
are discussed.
Keywords: Attachment representations, incarcerated mothers and
their children, intergenerational transmission of attachment, maternal