The current parenting experience of mothers who are the daughters of alcoholic mothers : an analysis of internal representational models of relationships
Messer, Janet Ruth 1951-
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Messer, Janet Ruth 1951-
This multiple case study examines the effect of parenthood on the internal representational models of relationships in women who have been maltreated as children by studying three women who have young children and who had themselves had alcoholic mothers. The review of the literature includes an extensive review about adult children of alcoholics and attachment theory. Subjects were interviewed about their childhood using Bartholomew's Family Interview and about their parenting experiences using Bretherton, Biringen, and Ridgeway's Parent Attachment Interview. Subjects also completed several questionnaires concerning child-rearing beliefs, relationship patterns, and childhood relationships with family and peers. Two independent raters analyzed the Family Interview for attachment category. The researcher analyzed the interviews with regard to attachment behavior, attitude toward attachment, emotional processing, sensitivity and insight as parents, and internal models of self and others. All subjects remember their abuse and attempt to be better parents than their own parents. They have eliminated the most destructive parental behaviors, but reenact other of their parents' behavior to a moderate extent. For all subjects, their internal models have undergone only slight change since childhood. Cognitive change has preceded emotional change. When under stress, these women revert to old patterns in which they distort their children's signals. They particularly discount their children's expressions of distress. The Fearful, that is A/C, and the Preoccupied patterns of parenting predominate, including elements of role reversal in which the mother attempts to bolster her self-esteem through her children's approval. Parenthood in itself did not significantly change the subjects' internal representational models of relationships. Factors that most affected these models were 1) internal developmental pressures at adolescence which encouraged ending denial of parental abuse and alcoholism, 2) a long term relationship with an emotionally supportive, non-abused mate, and 3)psychological counseling. Remembering childhood abuse and desiring change was not sufficient to completely change internal models of relationships. A process of deliberate psychic integration and reorganization with a therapist and/or a long-term consistent relationship with a healthy attachment figure with whom to consciously reprocess atttachment needs seems necessary.
- Theses and Dissertations