English summaries

English summaries (05-06/2013)

Marjo Flykt & Sari Ahlqvist-Björkroth

Prenatal representations as predictors of parenting and child development

The parent-child relationship is created already during pregnancy in parental representations of the baby, of oneself and one’s spouse as parents and of the family as a whole. Prenatal representations are known to predict the later parent-child relationship and through that, also different child developmental paths and risks. In this review we present research about the development of maternal and paternal representations as well as their stability into the postnatal period. We also discuss their effects on child development and parenting and the factors affecting the quality of representations. Finally, we discuss various open questions and controversies that still characterize this relatively young field of research.

Keywords: prenatal representations, attachment, pregnancy, parent-child relationship, mothers, fathers

Riikka Korja & Jallu Lindblom

Dynamics of family relationships in families with small children

The family unit includes several subsystems and relationships that regulate and mutually influence each other. A small infant is already an active part of the family system. On the other hand, different family dynamics are affecting the infant’s behavior and emotional regulation from the very beginning. The significance of family dynamics on child development is one of the central issues in the research and clinical field. In the present review, we explore family relationships from three different perspectives. First, we describe the role of the dyadic marital relationship and the co-parenting unit in family relationships. Second, we describe mother-father-child triadic interactions. Third, we describe different family types from the perspective of holistic family systems. In the present review, the aim is to discuss the dynamics of family relationships from the systemic perspective and to review how family relations are associated with and predict child development.

Keywords: marital relationship, co-parenting, triadic interaction, family system, families with small children

Sanna Isosävi & Maija Lundén

The essence of co-regulated parent-infant interactions in child development

Parent and child co-create their unique relationship from the first shared moments of life. Inborn characteristics and current abilities of both partners set the frame for their co-regulated interactions. At first, infant’s skills to actively regulate interaction are rudimentary and the parent bears more responsibility in adapting to the needs of the child. The parent acts as an external regulator of the infant’s rhythms, attention, emotions and behavior, and these regulatory interactions affect the brain’s developing regulatory systems. Through interchange between interaction with the parent and maturation of the brain the child becomes a more active partner in regulating the shared experience and gradually develops higher-order regulatory skills to independently control his/her mental states and behavior. In this article, we define what is meant by co-regulation and how parent and infant characteristics and actions can affect the emerging co-regulated interactions. We also discuss the significance of the co-regulatory experiences in children’s development.

Keywords: early interaction, co-regulation, development of self-regulation, executive function, emotion regulation, mother-infant, father-infant, temperament, mentalization, attachment, developmental psychology

Anna Kouvo, Riikka Korja & Sari Ahlqvist-Björkroth

Parental attachment representations and the parent-child relationship

According to the main tenet of attachment theory, feelings of security are transmitted from one generation to another through parent-child interaction. It has been hypothesized that parents’ state of mind with respect to their childhood attachment relationships might be a central dimension in parenting competence, which can foster feelings of security for their children from infancy through adolescence. The aim of the present review is to address the importance of parental representations of attachment in early parenthood and relationships within families. The focus of the review is both on maternal and paternal representations of attachment and their influence on child-parent relationships.

Keywords: attachment representations, AAI, WMCI, child-parent relationship

Saara Salo & Marjo Flykt

Parent-child emotional availability in relation to child development and well-being

Emotional Availability (EA; Biringen & Easterbrooks, 2012) theory analyzes the parent-child relationship emphasizing emotionality. According to EA theory, parental ability to respond affectively to what the child is expressing is relevant to optimal child development. Being emotionally available means also that the child can achieve mastery and independence. EA comprises parental sensitivity, structuring, non-hostility and non-intrusiveness and the child’s responsiveness and involvement. In this article the dimensions of EA, their relevance to child development and underlying factors are described. EA has also been evaluated in other caregiver-child relationships. The development of interventions aiming at improving EA are on the way both internationally and in Finland.

Keywords: emotional availability, child development, early intervention

Raija-Leena Punamäki & Sanna Isosävi

Early parent-infant interaction and parental trauma: Multiple underlying mechanisms and protective factors

Traumatic events involve life threat, danger or serious injury that threaten the survivor’s physical and mental integrity and endanger the security of close persons, subsequently evoking feelings of helplessness and severe distress. This article analyzes biological, interactional and behavioral paths through which parental trauma may impact infants’ emotion regulation, development and well-being. The majority of research is based on case studies, while empirical evidence is scarce. There is agreement that trauma forms a risk for early parent-child interaction due to its emotion-loaded, bodily and intimate nature. Some studies suggest that traumatized parents are less emotionally available and are easily either intrusive or withdrawn. The motivation for this interaction may be the parents’ desire to protect their infants from trauma-activated uncontrollable memories.

Keywords: traumatic experience, parenting, infant development