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.
- Developmental psychopathology
- Internal working models
- Role reversal
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health