Associations between parenting representations and behavior among young mothers and mothers with opioid use disorder

Renee C. Edwards*, Anna L. Herriott, Brent Finger, Sydney L. Hans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Mothers’ representations reflect how they experience their child and their relationship, and can guide parenting behavior. While studies of representations typically focus on infancy, this study examines associations between mothers’ representations and behavior with their preschoolers using two samples: young mothers (n = 201; 42% African American, 42% Latina, 8% European-American, 8% multi-ethnic; Mage = 32 months) and mothers in treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD; n = 150; 100% African American; Mage = 49 months). This study aims to identify the distribution of representations within these populations, differences in parenting between mothers classified with balanced and non-balanced representations, and distinct parenting behaviors associated with distorted and disengaged representations. The Working Model of the Child Interview was conducted to assess representations, and mother–child interactions were video-recorded. The distribution of balanced, distorted, and disengaged representations was 59%, 25%, and 15% among young mothers, and 21%, 39%, and 40% among mothers with OUD. Balanced representations (coherent, rich, engaged, respectful) were associated with positive parenting, including sensitivity, autonomy support, cognitive support and less negative regard among young mothers, and sensitivity and encouragement in the OUD sample. Mothers with disengaged representations (emotionally distant, lacking detail, indifferent) demonstrated less support for learning compared to mothers with distorted representations (involved but inconsistent, negative, or bizarre descriptions of child).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-811
Number of pages16
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • adolescent mothers
  • Arbeitsmodelle
  • cognitive stimulation
  • Drogenkonsum
  • jugendliche Mütter
  • madres adolescentes
  • maternal sensitivity
  • modelos de trabajo
  • modèles fonctionnels
  • mother–child interaction
  • Mutter-Kind-Beziehung
  • mères adolescentes
  • mütterliche Sensibilität
  • opioid use disorder
  • relación madre-niño
  • Relation mère-enfant
  • sensibilidad materna
  • sensibilité maternelle
  • substance use
  • toxicomanie
  • uso de sustancias
  • working models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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