Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 89 Issue 4 (December 2016), Pages 369-482

Exploring the link between maternal attachment‐related anxiety and avoidance and mindful parenting: The mediating role of self‐compassion (pages 369-384)

Objective

Mindful parenting has been described as a set of parental practices or skills that seek to enhance moment‐to‐moment awareness in the parent–child relationship. Although it has been suggested that adopting a mindful approach in parenting may foster positive parent–child relationships and promote the psychological functioning of children and parents, little is known about the factors that may be associated with this parental skill. In this study, we aimed to examine whether attachment‐related anxiety and avoidance were associated with mindful parenting through self‐compassion.

Design and methods

The sample included 290 mothers of school‐aged children and adolescents recruited in school settings, who completed self‐reported measures of adult attachment (Experiences in Close Relationships – Relationships Structures), self‐compassion (Self‐compassion Scale), and mindful parenting (Interpersonal Mindfulness in Parenting Scale).

Results

Structural equation modelling was used to test the proposed mediation model and to ascertain direct and indirect effects among study variables. Whereas attachment avoidance had a direct effect on mindful parenting, attachment anxiety was indirectly associated with mindful parenting through self‐compassion. Specifically, higher levels of anxiety were associated with lower self‐compassion, which, in turn, was associated with lower levels of mindful parenting. Higher levels of avoidance were directly associated with lower levels of mindful parenting.

Conclusions

These results demonstrate that mothers’ attachment dimensions play an important role in their levels of mindful parenting, although through different pathways. Interventions aimed at promoting mindful parenting skills should attempt to promote parents’ self‐compassion and consider parents’ levels of attachment insecurity.

Practitioner points

  • The results underline the important role of mothers’ attachment on levels of mindful parenting and evidence different pathways through which attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance are associated with this parental skill.
  • Higher levels of attachment avoidance were directly associated with lower levels of mindful parenting, whereas higher levels of anxiety were indirectly associated with lower levels of mindful parenting through lower levels of self‐compassion.
  • Mothers who are more self‐compassionate are more able to adopt a mindful stance in the parent–child relationship.
  • Parenting interventions aimed at promoting mindfulness skills in the parenting context can benefit from including self‐compassionate exercises and are particularly important for insecurely attached parents.

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