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Child Abuse Negl. 2009 Dec;33(12):924-32. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.04.007. Epub 2009 Nov 7.

Maternal attitudinal inflexibility: longitudinal relations with mother-infant disrupted interaction and childhood hostile-aggressive behavior problems.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.



: The Personal Attitude Scale (PAS; Hooley, 2000) is a method that is under development for identifying individuals high in Expressed Emotion based on personality traits of inflexibility, intolerance, and norm-forming. In the current study, the goal was to measure the association between this maternal attitudinal inflexibility, early hostile or disrupted mother-infant interactions, and hostile-aggressive behavior problems in the child.


In a prospective longitudinal study of 76 low-income mothers and their infants, it was predicted that maternal PAS scores, assessed at child age 20, would be related to difficulties in early observed mother-infant interaction and to hostile-aggressive behavioral difficulties in the child.


Results indicated that maternal difficulties in interacting with the infant in the laboratory were associated with maternal PAS scores assessed 20 years later. Hostile-aggressive behavior problems in the child at age five were also predictive of PAS scores of mothers. However, contrary to prediction, these behavior problems did not mediate the association between mother-infant interaction difficulties and maternal PAS scores, indicating that the child's hostile-aggressive behavior problems did not produce the link between quality of early interaction and later maternal attitudinal inflexibility.


The current results validate the PAS against observable mother-child interactions and child hostile-aggressive behavior problems and indicate the importance of future work investigating the maternal attitudes that are associated with, and may potentially precede, parent-infant interactive difficulties.


These findings regarding the inflexible attitudes of mothers whose interactions with their infants are also disrupted have important clinical implications. First, once the stability of the PAS has been established, this measure may offer a valuable screening tool for the prenatal identification of parents at risk for difficult interactions with their children. Second, it suggests routes for more cognitive interventions around helping less flexible parents shift perspectives to better take account of their child's outlooks and needs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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