Doctor of Philosophy
School of Psychology
Background: Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1982) proposes that the development of internal working models through early infant - caregiver relationships provide understanding of the self and others. Bowlby asserted that the gradual or sometimes sudden uptake of new information through conscious awareness was necessary for the continuing validity of the internal working models. Three studies explored the construct of mindfulness as facilitating the integration of new and novel information into working models.
Method: Study 1 (N=151, mean age 21, 74% female) investigated mindfulness and emotional regulation as sequential mediators in the relationship between attachment style and depression using the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ) (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006), Difficulty in Emotional Regulation Scale (DERS) (Gratz & Roemer, 2004) and Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS)(Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995). Studies 2 and 3 studied 41 mothers (mean age 31.3 years) in the perinatal period to test measures of mindful awareness as facilitating an alternate social information processing pathways. Interview and observation data was coded using the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) (Pennebaker, Chung, Ireland, Gonzales, & Booth, 2007) and NCAST Parent-child interaction (PCI) Feeding and Teaching Scale (Summer & Spietz, 1994a; Summer & Spietz, 1994b).
Results: Study one found full mediation between attachment style and depression for secure, preoccupied and dismissive attachment, whereas partial mediation was found for fearful attachment. Study 2 found that attachment history and the mindfulness subscale, non-reactivity to inner experiences, predicted maternal response to infant distress, supporting the potential for mindfulness to allow new information to be attended to, resulting in more attuned responding. Study 3 demonstrated consistent support for maternal cognitive style, indicated by linguistic markers, in predicting response to infant distress; and identified the competing roles of mindful awareness of current experience versus entanglement with attachment information in sensitive maternal responding. Despite limitations in design, these studies using longitudinal and mixed method designs provided further understanding for the integration of new information into internal working models, effecting attachment related outcomes.
Pickard, Judy, Effect of mindfulness on early mother-infant interaction and the transmission of attachment, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, 2017. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/103