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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2017 Feb;45(2):237-248. doi: 10.1007/s10802-016-0177-1.

Prenatal Reflective Functioning and Development of Aggression in Infancy: the Roles of Maternal Intrusiveness and Sensitivity.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB, Leiden, The Netherlands. h.j.a.smaling@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
2
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. h.j.a.smaling@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
3
Department of Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB, Leiden, The Netherlands.
4
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.
5
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.

Abstract

Maternal reflective functioning (RF) has been associated with quality of parent-child interactions and child development. This study investigated whether prenatal RF predicted the development of infant physical aggression and whether maternal sensitivity and/or intrusiveness mediated or moderated this association. The sample consisted of 96 first-time mothers (M = 22.57 years, SD = 2.13) and their infants (54 % male). Prenatal RF was measured with an interview, maternal behavior was observed during free play at 6 months post-partum, and infant physical aggression was assessed at 6, 12, and 20 months using maternal reports. Multivariate analyses of variance showed that relatively poor prenatal RF was related to relatively high infant physical aggression. These associations were moderated by maternal intrusiveness, with significant differences in physical aggression between RF-groups reportedly only in the absence of intrusiveness. Generally, mothers reported an increase in physical aggression between 6 and 12 months, except when they had both low RF-skills and were relatively less sensitive. It is concluded that prenatal RF is associated with (development of) infant physical aggression, and may be targeted in intervention programs aimed at reducing early physical aggression. Less adequate parenting, however, may counteract the beneficial effects of good RF, or obscure insight into children's behavioral development.

KEYWORDS:

Aggression; Infancy; Intrusiveness; Reflective functioning; Sensitivity

PMID:
27344154
PMCID:
PMC5241342
DOI:
10.1007/s10802-016-0177-1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

Compliance with Ethical Standards Funding This study is part of MINDS-Leiden (Principal Investigators: H. Swaab and S. H. M. van Goozen). This study was funded by Grant 056-23-001 from the National Initiative for Brain and Cognition Research (NIHC) supported and coordinated by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Ethical Approval All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed Consent Informed consent was obtained from all participating women included in the study.

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