Parents’ Dispositional Mindfulness, Child Conflict Discussion, and Childhood Internalizing Difficulties: A Preliminary Study

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Objectives: Parental mindfulness predicts more positive and supportive parent-child interactions. However, very few studies have tested this association using independent observations of interactions or considered a link with child outcomes. The aims of the current study were to understand (1) how parental mindfulness relates to independent observation of parent-child conflict resolution discussions and (2) how parental mindfulness and conflict resolution relate to children’s symptoms of anxiety and depression. Methods: Fifty-seven parents and their 8–12-year-old children were recruited from both clinical and community settings. Dyads engaged in a conflict discussion task from which content and resolution quality were coded. Parents self-reported on their dispositional mindfulness, and children self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Results: Parents who rated themselves as higher in the acting with awareness facet of dispositional mindfulness were more likely to refer to their child’s positive emotions, make more positive (e.g. “you were great”) and less negative (e.g., “it was awful”) evaluations, and made fewer oppositional statements when resolving conflict. Parents who rated themselves as higher in the non-judging facet of mindfulness used more validation during conflict discussions. Mediation bootstrapping models showed support for an indirect path of acting with awareness and observing mindfulness relating to children’s symptoms of anxiety and depression, through positive evaluations. There was also support for an indirect path of observing and describing mindfulness relating to internalizing symptoms through reduced use of oppositional strategies. Conclusions: Parent dispositional mindfulness was associated with more positive and supportive conflict resolution discussions. The current findings also provide preliminary support for conflict resolution mediating a relationship between parent dispositional mindfulness and child symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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