Expectant women experience a shift in self-perception from being not a mother, to becoming a mother. Alytia A. Levondosky, Ph.D., and G. Anne Bogat, Ph.D., both of the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University, together with Alissa C. Huth-Bocks, Ph.D., Department of Psychology at Eastern Michigan State University, conducted a study to determine what effect domestic violence (DV) can have during that crucial time for both the mother and child and later as they form their relationship bonds. They said, “This unique period of psychological openness leads to the possibility of a new relationship and experience of love, but the openness which is required for the mental shifts of identity and the development of new internal representations also leaves the woman more vulnerable to psychological damage from significant relationships in her life, including the relationship with her romantic partner.
The researchers used a 10 year longitudal study and determined that domestic violence had a direct effect on parenting behaviors and child attachment relationships. They said, “Our research established that one psychological effect of prenatal DV is its disruption of the normative process of the pregnant woman’s development of maternal mental representation about her fetus as child and self as mother. We also established that these maternal representations during pregnancy were related to observed parenting behaviors and child attachment at age 1.” The team also discovered that maternal depression, income and DV all posed risk factors for attachment issues. They interviewed the women throughout their pregnancies and again at several points until the child turned four years old. They realized that as income increased and DV decreased, the attachment bond became more secure and conversely, attachment was strained as income decreased and DV increased. They concluded, “Thus, overall, our research found that prenatal internal working models of caregiving had profound effects on the developing mother-child relationship, both during pregnancy and after the birth of the child.”
Levendosky, Alytia A., Anne G. Bogat, and Alissa C. Huth-Bocks. “The Influence of Domestic Violence on the Development of the Attachment Relationship between Mother and Young Child.” Psychoanalytical Psychology (July 25, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024561
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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