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Title: The impact of maternal reflective functioning on parenting outcomes in the antenatal and postnatal period
Author: Bickford Smith, Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7658 0865
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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A child's early experiences are thought to influence their outcomes for the rest of their life (Slade, Grienenberger, Bernbach, Levy, & Locker, 2005). In fact, the term '1001 critical days' is used to describe the period from conception to the first two years of life, as this period is considered to be a critical time for shaping a child's future emotional, physical and developmental outcomes (Leadsom, Field, Burstow, & Lucus, 2013). During pregnancy, a mother is responsible for caring for her child in a way that will promote healthy development, making physiological and psychological adaptations to prepare for her baby (Markin, 2013). Although it is important to consider the role of the parental unit as a whole, acknowledging the role of a father has on child developmental outcomes, the area of paternal attachment remains a far less researched area as previous literature has tended to focus on maternal processes. According to attachment and mentalisation theories, it has been proposed that a mother's representation of caregiving (i.e. what it means to be a mother) is often based on her own experiences of being parented (Huth-Bocks, Muzik, Beeghly, Earls, & Stacks, 2014; Slade, Belsky, Aber, & Phelps, 1999). Mothers who have had good early experiences of caregivers, and have developed a secure attachment, are more likely to parent their own child in a way that promotes a secure attachment in their child (Slade et al., 2005). This 'transmission gap' between adult attachment and child attachment is thought to be explained by the mother's reflective functioning, or mentalising, capacity (Fonagy & Target, 2005). This describes a mother's ability to consider her child's mental states that underlie their behaviour, and enables her to respond appropriately to her child's emotional needs, leaving them with a sense of safety and security (Grienenberger, Kelly, & Slade, 2005; Slade et al., 2005). This thesis explores the relationship between maternal reflective functioning and maternal parenting. Chapter one is a systematic review which aims to critically review and synthesise the available literature regarding maternal reflective functioning and parental caregiving. The quality of the current research and the study outcomes are discussed, and directions for future research and clinical implications are proposed. Chapter two is an empirical paper exploring the relationship between maternal reflective functioning and health practices in pregnancy. This study uses a novel, quantitative measure, the Prenatal Parental Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (P-PRFQ: Pajulo et al., 2015) to assess maternal reflective functioning. This measure was used as it has the potential to be more clinically applicable to measuring maternal reflective functioning in pregnancy than traditional semistructured interview methods. The findings from this paper contribute to the current literature on antenatal attachment, and future clinical and research implications are discussed.
Supervisor: Van Vuuren, Julie ; Rawlinson, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral