Entropy Rules

Cue Mindful Parenting:

Trauma Informed Care Training For Parents

    The diverse bodies of research reviewed so far indicate that (1) experiencing child maltreatment leads to compromised development in certain areas (e.g., emotion regulation), (2) mindfulness has been shown to be related in beneficial ways to constructs related to child maltreatment, and (3) mindfulness has been utilized to successfully treat traumatized populations, including child maltreatment survivors. The missing piece in this discussion is how mindfulness affects parenting and parenting outcomes.
    Two theoretical models of mindful parenting have been explicitly articulated. First, Kabat-Zinn and Kabat-Zinn (1997) identified three major features of mindful parenting: (1) respect for the sovereignty of the child (i.e., deep acknowledgement of and respect for the child's unique inner self), (2) empathy (e.g., the parent actively taking the perspective of the child in a concerned, kind way), and (3) acceptance (i.e., of the child's subjective experience). Duncan et al. (2009) elaborated on this by identifying five interrelated dimensions of mindful parenting: (1) listening with undivided attention to the child, (2) nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child, (3) emotional awareness of self and child, (4) self-regulation in the context of the parenting relationships, and (5) compassion for the self and child.
    Some aspects of mindful parenting theory have already been linked directly to attachment related behavior and sequelae. Dumas (2005) also contributed to the theoretical understanding of mindful parenting in a discussion of mindfulness-based parent training (MBPT), a form of enhanced behavioral parent training designed specifically to address the role of automaticity in dysfunctional families with disruptive children. Dumas highlights the role of mindfulness in interrupting patterns of behavior based in attachment history, which he might consider a type of automatized transactional procedures (ATPs), ÒÉtransactional, relationship-specific ways of copingÉperformed with little or no conscious awarenessÉ[providing] continuity and stability to the relationship by serving as guides to current and future exchanges [É] they are highly resistant to changeÓ (Dumas, 2005, p.781). Dumas' (2005) MBPT focuses on the clinician's use and modeling of mindfulness in addition to teaching mindfulness skills directly to parents. The three main components of MBPT are facilitative listening, distancing, and motivated action planning (Dumas, 2005).
    Mindful parenting, therefore, stands in contrast to parenting driven by automatic, avoidant and/or anxious attachment-based tendencies (Moreira & Canavarro, 2015). Mindful parents are less likely to endorse that they are distracted by an ongoing need for distance from their child, especially during distress, as in avoidant attachment styles. Mindful parenting also contrasts with parenting based on an anxious attachment style, where the parent is more likely to endorse being distracted by their own thoughts and needs, increasing the likelihood of experiencing miscues when relating with the child (Moreira & Canavarro, 2015).
    Mindful parenting has been associated with better maternal mental health. Corthorn and Milicic (2015) conducted a correlational study on mindfulness in Chilean mothers. They found that maternal trait mindfulness had a significant positive association with mindful parenting, and significant negative correlation with general stress, depression, anxiety, and parenting stress. Mindful parenting was negatively associated with both parenting stress and general stress. Facets of trait mindfulness and mindful parenting that emerged as especially predictive of these salutary correlations were nonjudgment and describing (Corthorn & Milicic, 2015).
    Townshend (2016), calling attention to increasing rates of youth psychopathology in the 21st century, highlighted the potential of mindful parenting interventions to promote youth mental health through enhanced attachment related parenting behavior. Recall that disorganized attachment is one of the earliest known indicators of a problematic developmental trajectory that often includes child psychopathology (e.g., Bernier & Meins, 2008). Based on a literature review, the author identified five distinct categories of mindful parenting change processes associated with youth mental health, including (1) attention (e.g., attention to child's communications; attention to context), (2) intention (e.g., to remain emotionally regulated while interacting with the child; to listen to the child with full attention), (3) attitude (e.g., nonjudgment; acceptance; compassion), (4) secure attachment (e.g., responsivity to child's needs), and (5) emotion (e.g., attunement; emotional awareness; emotional regulation). Townshend concludes the current evidence supporting mindful parenting is inconclusive based on a lack of quality randomized control trials.
    With this in mind, cross-sectional studies of mindful parenting are reviewed next, followed by a discussion of findings from Mindfulness-Based Parenting Intervention (MBPI) studies.


⇲ About The Author

Robin Hertz, MA is currently in the process of completing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oregon.

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