Bindung und Paarbeziehung – Projektbeschreibung

Erlangen Partner and Parent Study – project description

The impact of general and specific attachment representations on maternal affect regulation and parenting

Inspired by recurrent findings on the intergenerational transmission of attachment we are investigating in how far mothers’ capacities to help their infants regulate their emotions are influenced not only by maternal adult attachment representations but also by the quality of the parents’ couple attachment relationship. This is a longitudinal study following a sample of 80 first-time couple from the last trimester of pregnancy until 6 months post partum.

Towards the end of their pregnancy we interview mothers about their attachment experiences with their childhood caregivers (Adult Attachment Interview by Main & Goldwyn) and about their attachment experiences with their current partners (Current Relationship Interview by Crowell & Owens). Five times during the transition to parenthood our participants complete self-report questionnaires on emotional well-being and the quality of the couple relationship.

6 months post partum we assess the couples’ attachment behaviours and conflict resolutions styles in a discussion task, and we rate mother-infant interactions according to sensitivity, mind-mindedness, affect expression and containment. In a separate examination we measure the mothers’ perception and appraisal of infantile emotions on the physiological level.

This study is unique in Germany (and potentially on an international level as well) in terms of its design and sample size. The results of our project will provide new insights about the interactions between maternal attachment representations, couple attachment behaviour and parenting, and contribute to clarifying the role of affect regulation in the process of intergenerational transmission of attachment.

Project management: Johanna Behringer, Iris Reiner, Gottfried Spangler

Student assistants: Nicole Fritsch, Iris Gebhardt, Melanie Kungl, Catrin Buck, Rainer Leyh, Sebastian Görtler, Cornelia Wolf

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG 312/18-1

Cooperations: Prof. Judith Crowell, State University of New York at Stony Brook (USA), Prof. Stephen Briggs, Tavistock Clinic and University of East London (England)