What Goes Unheard When Struggling Mothers Speak? A Qualitative Study Using the Adult Attachment Interview
Williams, Anna Denise
Studies of attachment in the community suggest that most people have secure attachment styles, but as many as 40% may have an insecure attachment style (Bakermans-Kranenburg & van Ijzendoorn 2009). Frightening parental behaviour has been found to predict disorganised attachment in infants, which in turn is associated with clinical disturbance in adolescence (Van Ijzendoorn, Schuengel & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 1999). Insecure attachment has been found to be disproportionately more common in many psychiatric disorders than the general population: including substance misuse, eating disorders, and Personality Disorder (PD). Transgenerational transmission of attachment has become widely researched over recent years and evidence has shown that a mother’s attachment style can predict the attachment style of her infant (Ward, Ramsay, Turnbull, Steele, Steele, & Treasure, 2001). Research has found that a mothers’ ability to mentalize about her own early attachment relationships has important implications in her transition to becoming a mother. Motherhood can be challenging for mothers who have good mental health, therefore women with poor mental health may find the transition to motherhood especially stressful. The aim of the current study was to give voice to mothers who have been silenced in many ways, to learn from their struggles and to help services develop more effective ways to reach ‘hard to reach’ vulnerable mothers. The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1984) was conducted with eight mothers who were attending a Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT; Bateman & Fonagy, 2004) group designed for mothers who had caused harm to their children and had subsequently had them removed from their care. Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the AAI transcripts and five main themes emerged: ‘Love and loss’, ‘Change and confusion’, ‘Families and normality’, ‘Safety and boundaries’ and ‘Strength and vulnerability’. The findings contribute to the field of maternal mental health research and clinical implications are discussed at an individual, organisational and societal level.