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J Couns Psychol. 2010 Jul;57(3):304-16.

Differentiation, self-other representations, and rupture-repair processes: predicting child maltreatment-risk.

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  • 1Counseling Psychology Program, Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services, 330 Cedar Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16801-3110, USA.


This set of studies was designed to examine the relational underpinnings of child abuse potential in a sample of 51 urban families. In Study 1, lower maternal differentiation of self-most notably, greater emotional reactivity and greater emotional cutoff-along with self-attacking introjects, together distinguished mothers at higher risk (vs. lower risk) for child maltreatment (CM). In Study 2, patterns of interactive rupture and repair were examined in a subsample of n = 15 families and found to vary as a function of risk for CM. Specifically, SASB coding (Benjamin, 1996, 2003) of mother-children interactions during two moderately stressful lab tasks revealed higher rates of interactive mismatch and mother-initiated ruptures, and fewer successful repairs in families at higher-risk-for-CM, relative to families at lower-risk. Implications for counseling and directions for further translational research are discussed.


Child maltreatment; SASB; differentiation; parenting; relationship rupture

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