Mothers' resolution of their young children's psychiatric diagnoses

Date of Completion

January 2008


Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




A mother's ability to resolve her child's diagnosis indicates adaptive coping. It has been associated with positive mental representations of caregiving as well as sensitive caregiving behaviors and positive child attachment status. Maternal non-resolution of a child's diagnosis has been associated with maternal distress, caregiving burden, and the quality of marital and social support. This study examined a model for predicting maternal resolution of diagnosis in a child psychiatric population utilizing the Reaction to Diagnosis paradigm. Thirty three mothers of children who had been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders between the ages of two and seven years were interviewed using the Reaction to Diagnosis Interview (RDI). The RDI is derived from attachment theory and is based on the precept that maternal resolution of diagnosis is related to the quality of attachments in the mother's early life, which interact with current conditions to determine how she deals with parenting crises and experiences of loss in the caregiving system. ^ Based on the findings from previous studies of the RDI paradigm, as well as concerns regarding maternal mental health status in the early childhood psychiatric population, variables such as maternal depressive risk, childrearing stress, and child functioning were specifically chosen to determine their association with maternal resolution status. The study measures included the RDI, the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), a two-factor model of the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), and the child functioning subscale of the Ohio Scales. Both ANOVA and logistic regression analyses supported an association between childrearing stress, maternal depressive risk, and maternal resolution status. While childrearing stress was a robust predictor of resolution status across categories, depressive risk was a differential predictor. Child functioning was not significant as a predictor, and may exert influence indirectly through its association with childrearing stress. Similar to earlier findings in RDI studies, there were no significant associations between maternal or child demographic characteristics and maternal resolution status. ^ The discussion centers around questions regarding maternal psychiatric status, future RDI research in child psychiatric settings, potential utility of the model for clinical application, issues regarding resolution status over time, and qualitative concerns regarding resolution status. ^