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Hostile-Helpless State of Mind as Further Evidence of Adult Disorganized States of Mind in Neglecting Families

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2014 Pages: 1351-1357
Tristan Milot; Andra Lorent; Diane St-Laurent; Annie Bernier; George Tarabulsy; Jean-Pascal Lemelin; Louise S. Éthier
Date Published
August 2014
7 pages
Using the recently developed Hostile-Helpless (HH) coding system for the Adult Attachment Interview, this study assessed disorganized states of mind in a sample of 70 mothers who had neglected or were at risk of neglecting their children.
According to attachment theory, a disorganized state of mind regarding attachment in a parent is related to a higher risk for difficulties in the parent-child relationship (Hesse, 2008; Main and Goldwyn, 1998). Traditionally, disorganized states of mind in adulthood are assessed with the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), which is a widely used semi-structured interview that documents thoughts, feelings, and memories related to early experiences with caregivers as well as adults' state of mind regarding attachment relationships. The HH state of mind coding system for the AAI was developed to capture disorganized attachment states of mind that would result from childhood relational trauma. A hostile-helpless state of mind is present when the individual displays signs in his/her discourse of conflicting or extremely negative thoughts and emotions toward a primary caregiver, while also identifying with this caregiver. In the current study, 45 mothers out of the 70 (64 percent) were classified hostile/helpless, revealing a high prevalence of disorganized states of mind. It also found that most mothers in the sample experienced at least one form of childhood trauma, notably from emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and physical neglect; and there was a strong correlation between the number of different types of maltreatment experienced and the overall Disorganization scores. Further research is needed to determine whether neglecting mothers differ from mothers at risk of child neglect on other variables. The mothers were recruited over a 10-year period, and most were administered the AAI in a follow-up study approximately 4 years after their recruitment. 2 tables and 23 references