Intergenerational transmission of role reversal between parent and child: Dyadic and family systems internal working models

Jenny Macfie, Nancy L. Mcelwain, Renate M. Houts, Martha J. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The current study examined the intergenerational transmission of role reversal within a developmental psychopathology framework. Role reversal is a relationship disturbance in which a parent looks to a child to meet the parent's need for comfort, parenting, intimacy, or play, and the child attempts to meet these needs. In a normative sample, n = 138, fathers and mothers reported on childhood role reversal with their mothers as part of the Adult Attachment Interview, AAI (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1984). Mother-child role reversal was then assessed in an observational paradigm when children were 2 years of age. Based on theories of dyadic and family systems internal working models we hypothesized gender specific replications of role reversal in the next generation. Indeed, mothers who reported role reversal with their mothers during the AAI tended to engage in higher levels of role reversal with their toddler-aged daughters. Furthermore, when fathers reported role reversal with their mothers during the AAI, mothers tended to engage in higher levels of role reversal with their toddler-aged sons. The importance of the inclusion of fathers in family research, the relationship between role reversal and attachment, and implications for preventive interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005

Keywords

  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Fathers
  • Internal working models
  • Role reversal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Intergenerational transmission of role reversal between parent and child: Dyadic and family systems internal working models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this