Department of Psychology pres.
Developmental Brown Bag: Testing developmental theories, busting myths and helping families
Brenda L. Volling, Lois Wladis Hoffman Collegiate Professor of Psychology
In this talk, I will address a question recently posed by a mother expecting her second child: "Will I love my second child as much as I love my first?" This talk will describe how the narrow focus of current developmental theories of parenting and parent-child relationships limits are abilities to generate hypotheses to address this question. In turn, a number of myths continue to be perpetuated by both researchers and practitioners about child and family adjustment following the birth of a baby sibling. I will describe how such theoretical limitations drive research designs and data collection on mother-child dyads and in the end, make it nearly impossible to find data that can be analyzed to answer this mother's question to help her and other parents. I will present findings from three separate studies outlining our attempts to determine if this is a common belief among women expecting their second child, if such beliefs are a cause for concern, and what the outcomes are for babies if mothers are already asking this question before the infant is even born. The first study will present findings from the Family Transitions Study (FTS), a longitudinal investigation of 241 mothers and fathers making the transition from one child to two, to examine how frequently mothers reported having these worries, whether these worries covaried with other psychological and socio-contextual risks in the family, and whether such worries expressed during pregnancy predicted mothers' feelings of attachment to the baby after the birth and the security of the infant-mother attachment at the end of the first year. The second study will present findings from a web-based analysis of over 40,000 blog posts by mothers expecting their second child on the BabyCenter website to determine if this was a common concern discussed by women with other expectant mothers. The final study reports findings from a recent pilot program in which we asked 30 pregnant mothers if they worried about loving both children equally in an effort to replicate findings from the FTS, and in the end, to demonstrate how myths can be busted and science can be translated to help families across important developmental transitions.
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