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Psychiatry. 2010 Summer;73(2):130-44. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2010.73.2.130.

Subjective and objective measures of parent-child relationship dysfunction, child separation distress, and joint attention.

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Service de Psychiatrie de l'Enfant e de l'Adolescent (SPEA), Hopitaux Universitaires de Geneve, 51 Boulevard de la Cluse, 2eme Etage, CH-1205 Geneve, Switzerland.


The literature suggests an adverse impact of maternal stress related to interpersonal violence on parent-child interaction. The current study investigated associations between a mother's self-reported parent-child relationship dysfunction and what she does in response to her child's cues. It also examined whether maternal perception of parent-child dysfunctional interaction and child behavior when stressed by separation, along with maternal behavior in response to child distress, predicted impaired joint attention (JA) during play. Participant mothers (n = 74) and their children ages 12-48 months were recruited from community pediatrics clinics and completed two videotaped visits. After correlations, multiple linear regression was applied to find the best model fit that would predict outcomes of interest. We found that both maternal subjective report of self-reported parent-child relationship dysfunction and observed child separation distress together predicted atypical maternal behavior. Self-reported parent-child relationship dysfunction, observed atypical maternal behavior, and child separation distress combined significantly predicted less time spent in joint attention during play. Maternal posttraumatic stress predicted less maternal availability after separation stress. Clinicians should thus carefully assess and listen to parents' communication of disturbances in their relationship with their young child. Left untreated, parent-child relationship dysfunction may well lead to impairment in learning and social-emotional development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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