Attachment Representations and Emotion Regulation Strategies in Parents of Children with Disruptive Behaviour Disorders

Fabiola Bizzi, Cecilia Serena Pace


Although a growing body of research suggests a robust association between insecure attachment, emotion regulation problems and externalizing problems, as Disruptive Behaviour Disorders (DBD), in children, only a few studies have explored these constructs in their parents. Moreover, the role of the father is often neglected. The current study aimed to investigate attachment representations and emotion regulation strategies in parents with DBD children (considering mothers and father separately), compared with a comparison group. The research involved 100 Italian parents: 36 clinical parents (18 mothers and 18 fathers) of children aged 8-12 years with a diagnosis of DBD, and 64 parents (32 mothers and 32 fathers) of children with no clinical symptoms. Parents’ attachment representations were assessed through the Adult Attachment Interview and their emotional regulation strategies through the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire. The clinical status of children was the result of an evaluation by two mental health experts and a compilation by both parents of the Child Behavior Checklist 6-18 Version. Our results pointed to a greater presence of Insecure-Entangled attachment in DBD mothers and a lower level of Cognitive Reappraisal in DBD fathers compared with comparison parents. Nevertheless, maternal Insecure and paternal Cognitive Reappraisal did not together predict children DBD as the outcome. These preliminary findings make a significant contribution to the topic of emotional functioning of DBD parents, suggesting the importance to further deepen the quality of parenting in the context of DBD children.


Disruptive Behaviour Disorders; Parents; Attachment representation; Emotion regulation strategies; Cognitive Reappraisal; Expressive Suppression.

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