Mothers with intellectual disability, their experiences of maltreatment, and their children's attachment representations: a small-group matched comparison study.Attach Hum Dev. 2014; 16(5):417-36.AH
Maternal intellectual disability (ID) is regarded a risk factor in child development, but there is no scientific evidence on maternal ID in relation to children's attachment. Using a matched comparison design, a small group (n = 23) of mothers diagnosed with ID was studied to help fill this gap. Besides maternal ID, we examined the role of abuse/trauma/maltreatment (ATM) in the mothers' biographies, along with potential confounds. Comparison group mothers (n = 25) had normal variations in intelligence and matched mothers with ID on residential area, income, child age, and sex. History of maternal ATM was assessed using a semi-structured interview and was found to be significantly more likely in the ID group mothers' experience than the comparison group mothers. Children's (M age = 77 months) attachment representations were assessed with the Separation Anxiety Test. Among children of mothers with ID, a substantial minority (35%) had a secure and the vast majority (>80%) an organized attachment representation. Mothers with ID who had suffered elevated ATM were significantly more likely to have children who were scored high on disorganization and insecurity. We discuss possible implications of our findings for societal considerations regarding parenting and child attachment in the context of parental ID status.