The implications of parent mental health and wellbeing for parent-child attachment: A systematic review
Background Parent mental health and wellbeing may have implications for understanding attachment transmission. In this systematic review, we synthesise the published literature to determine the nature of the relationship between parent mental health and wellbeing and the intergenerational transmission of attachment and to provide recommendations for future research, clinical practice and intervention. Method Using the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) approach, five electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed empirical studies, published in English. Articles were considered for inclusion if data was collected on adult attachment, child attachment, and a domain of parent mental health/wellbeing. No date parameters were applied to the search strategy. The review was registered with PROPSERO (registration number: CRD42020157247). Results Eleven studies examining the impact on parent mental health and wellbeing on the intergenerational transmission of attachment were identified for inclusion in this review. Our review found preliminary evidence that parent mental health and wellbeing play a role in the intergenerational transmission of attachment. Other key findings from the review were: evidence quality is mixed due to variable measurement of attachment and mental health; studies have mostly included correlational analysis or do not utilise contemporary methodological approaches to testing mediating or moderating relationships; and literature is largely focused on psychopathology and negative factors of mental health. Conclusions The limited scope of parent mental health and wellbeing constructs examined in the literature, the sparse use of robust statistical analyses, and the lack of literature in general makes it difficult to draw conclusions on how and why parent mental health impacts attachment transmission. Addressing these limitations will further progress attachment-related literature and may have particular implications for attachment-informed interventions with clinical populations.
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