Entropy Rules

Mindful Communication:

Mindfulness For Parent Child Communication

    A crucial component of attachment related behavior is the manner and effectiveness of communication between parent and child, a topic that has been studied in relation to mindful parenting. Lippold, Duncan, Coatsworth, Nix, and Greenberg (2015) investigated how mindful parenting impacts communication between parents and their adolescent children. Specifically they found that mindful parenting was associated with greater levels of both adolescent disclosure and parental solicitation of disclosure. These effects were mediated by reduced perception of parental overcontrol and negative overreaction, as well as enhanced affective quality in the parent-child relationship. The authors speculate reduced emotional reactivity may underlie these effects (Lippold et al., 2015).
    Turpyn and Chaplin (2015) looked at how maternal mindful parenting related to maternal emotional expression during a conflict discussion. They further examined indirect effects of mindful parenting on adolescent risk behavior, namely substance use and sexual behavior. Mothers reporting greater mindful parenting expressed less negative emotion and shared more positive emotion with their adolescents during the conflict discussion. Mindful parenting was directly related to less adolescent substance use and early sexual behavior. Mindful parents also displayed less negative emotional expression but not more positive emotional expression during conflict interactions. Rather, mindful parents were more likely to engage in more shared displays of positive emotion with their adolescent, indicating enhanced affective attunement. There was also a significant indirect negative effect of mindful parenting on substance use mediated by shared positive emotion (Turpyn & Chaplin, 2016). The beneficial associations between mindful parenting and parent-child communication are promising given it is the quality of interaction between parent and child over time that predicts secure attachment (Kobak & Madsen, 2008).

Mental/Behavioral Health

    Mindful parenting has also been studied in association with child and adolescent outcomes. For example, Geurtzen, Scholte, Engels, Tak, and van Zundert (2015) investigated possible links between mindful parenting and adolescent internalizing problems in a large, Dutch community sample. Findings indicated that the only dimension of mindful parenting directly related to adolescent internalizing was nonjudgmental acceptance, which was negatively associated with internalizing problems. Mindful parenting was also inversely related to parents' internalizing issues (Geurtzen et al., 2015).
    Siu, Ma, and Chui (2016) investigated the role of maternal mindfulness in child social behavior in a healthy Chinese community sample. They found that maternal mindfulness was significantly predictive of fewer child emotional problems, conduct problems, and peer issues and more prosocial behavior. These associations were mediated by the quality of the mother-child relationship including self-reported secure attachment, more positive parental involvement, as well as less relational frustration and harsh discipline (Siu et al., 2016). Additionally, Van den Heuvel, Johannes, Henrichs, and Van den Bergh (2015) found a positive association between maternal mindfulness and socio-emotional development in 10-month-old infants mediated by lower maternal anxiety during pregnancy.
    Parent et al. (2010) examined the role of parental mindfulness in externalizing and internalizing symptoms of children whose parent was depressed. They found an inverse relationship between parental mindfulness and parental depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms were positively associated with negative parenting behavior and child internalizing problems, and negatively associated with positive parenting behavior. More positive parenting behavior was associated with fewer externalizing problems. Positive parenting partially mediated the link between parental depression and child externalizing problems. Parental mindfulness was also negatively associated with child internalizing behavior, but parental depression did not appear to mediate this association. The authors suggest other factors such as emotion regulation or adaptive coping could help explain why parents who are less mindful tend to raise children who experience more internalizing symptoms (Parent et al., 2010). In a set of follow-up analyses that included depressed and nondepressed parents, Parent, McKee, Rough, and Forehand (2016b) found again that parents higher in dispositional mindfulness had youth with fewer internalizing and externalizing problems. This indirect effect was mediated by fewer negative parenting practices. These effects were consistent across three stages of childhood (between 3 and 17 years-old; Parent et al., 2016b).
    Together, these findings clearly indicate mindful parenting and parental mindfulness is associated with better mental and behavioral health outcomes for children. Yet the generalizability of these effects to adult survivors of child maltreatment is uncertain since these studies in general did not collect direct information on parental maltreatment history. Moreover, the ability to make causal claims related to mindfulness' effects on parenting and child outcomes is limited by general reliance on self-report and cross-sectional designs, as well not collecting information about mindfulness practice history. In order for the mindful parenting research to have an impact on public health, it would behoove researchers in this area to begin to account for child maltreatment and mindfulness practice histories.

⇲ About The Author

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