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      Role-Confusion in Parent-Child Relationships: Assessing Mother's Representations and its Implications for Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice


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          The representational world of the mother has long been at the center of clinical discussions regarding the quality of parenting. However, assessing mother’s representation of role-confusion in her relation with her child has yet to be investigated, even if parent-child role-confusion can lead to maladaptive pathways. As part of a larger study we developed the Maternal Role-Confusion Scale (PARC) to assess role-confusion in the way a parent talks about her relationship with the child on the Experience of Caregiving Interview (ECI). The ECI, a semi structured interview probing the mothers’ representations of her relationship with her child (Solomon, J., & George, C. (1996). Defining the caregiving system: Toward a theory of caregiving. Infant Mental Health Journal, 17(3), 183-197), is very clinically relevant and parts of the interview can easily be adapted for use in counselling and psychotherapy settings. Here, we first define role-confusion, its socio-economic and family dynamic aspects, and its impact on child development and adulthood. We then present our Parental Role-Confusion coding Scale (PARC). Next we describe two profiles of role-confused mothers from our sample, as well as evidence validating these maternal responses as predictors of role-confused distortions in observed interactions with the child. We call attention to the dimension of sexualisation in the relationship, a high indicator of Role-Confusion. This emerging body of work points to the importance of being alert to indicators of role-confusion in the clinical setting. The findings can inform and enrich counselling and psychology practice by familiarizing clinicians with how to listen for indicators of role-confusion while talking with parents about their relationship with the child.

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              The current meta-analysis examines the links between unresolved representations of attachment, anomalous parental behavior, and disorganized attachment relationships in 12 studies including 851 families. We found moderate effect sizes for the associations between unresolved states of mind and anomalous behavior (r = .26), unresolved states of mind and infant disorganized attachment relationships (r = .21), and anomalous behavior and disorganized attachment relationships (r = .34). Sample characteristics, observational context, and observational measure were not associated with differences in effect sizes. Only a small part of the association between unresolved states of mind and disorganized attachment relationships was explained by the mediation of anomalous parental behavior (.26* .34 = .09). Other factors yet to be uncovered must mediate the influence of unresolved states of mind on infant disorganized attachment; thus, further exploration of infant, parental, ecological, and genetic factors are warranted.

                Author and article information

                Eur J Couns Psych
                The European Journal of Counselling Psychology
                Eur. J. Couns. Psych.
                18 August 2016
                : 4
                : 2
                : 205-227
                [a ]Child Psychiatry Department, CHRU Besançon, Besançon, France
                [b ]The Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Eastern and Southern Norway (RBUP), Oslo, Norway
                [c ]Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA
                [4]??? ???
                Author notes
                [* ]Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School at the Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA, 02139, USA. klruth@ 123456hms.harvard.edu

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 04 December 2014
                : 01 April 2016
                Self URI (journal-page): https://journals.psychopen.eu/

                parentification,parent-child relationship,role-confusion,narrative,internal model
                parentification, parent-child relationship, role-confusion, narrative, internal model


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