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The Role of Reflective Functioning in Predicting Marital and Coparenting Quality
Journal of Child and Family Studies
  • Allison C. Jessee, University of St. Thomas
  • Sarah C Mangelsdorf, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Maria S. Wong, Stevenson University
  • Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan, The Ohio State University
  • Aya Shigeto, Nova Southeastern University
  • Geoffrey L. Brown, University of Georgia
Document Type
Publication Date
  • coparenting,
  • family studies,
  • marital quality,
  • reflective functioning,
  • transition to parenthood

Reflective functioning (RF) is a measure of mentalization—the capacity to think about one’s own and others’ thoughts and feelings and to understand the connections between mental states and behaviors. Previous research indicates a decline in marital quality across the transition to parenthood, and some studies have found that parents are less happy than non-parents. Thus, researchers have called for research into possible moderators of these patterns. RF may help couples navigate this transition by more easily taking each other’s (and the infant’s) perspective and understanding each other’s behaviors. Much of the research on RF has focused on mothering behavior; research has not yet examined associations between RF and other family interactions. We examined associations between RF and marital and coparenting quality for both wives and husbands. Reflective functioning was coded from Adult Attachment Interviews conducted during pregnancy. We assessed marital quality at 3.5 months, and coparenting quality at 13 months, after the birth of the target child. Wives’ higher RF was associated with higher levels of positive—and lower levels of negative—marital and coparenting interactions. Wives who were better able to reflect on their early experiences with their parents were involved in marital interactions that were more positive and supportive and less conflicted and undermining. Husbands’ RF did not predict marital or coparenting quality. These findings highlight the importance of reflective functioning in understanding family functioning.

Citation Information
Allison C. Jessee, Sarah C Mangelsdorf, Maria S. Wong, Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan, et al.. "The Role of Reflective Functioning in Predicting Marital and Coparenting Quality" Journal of Child and Family Studies Vol. 27 Iss. 1 (2018) p. 187 - 197 ISSN: 1573-2843
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