Professional carers’ attachment style and reflective functioning: Links with adolescent behavioral and emotional adaptation in residential care
Pascuzzo K, Cyr C, Joly M-P, *Rollin M, Cyr-Desautels L. (2021). Professional carers' attachment style and reflective functioning: Links with adolescent behavioral and emotional adaptation in residential care. Children and Youth Services Review, 126.
While previous research has underscored the importance of the professional carer-adolescent relationship in residential care as a means for promoting youth adaptation, very little is known on the processes at work. Namely, can professional carers’ interest and curiosity in adolescents’ mental states mitigate the negative associations between professional carers’ insecure attachment and adolescents’ behavioral and emotional adaptation? This is an important question to examine given that insecure attachment among carers may constitute an important obstacle to developing positive relationships with adolescents in their care. Thirty-four dyads consisting of professional carers and adolescent boys living in juvenile residential care units took part in the current study. Carers completed the Attachment Style Questionnaire (ASQ) as well as an adapted version of the Parental Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (PRFQ). Adolescents completed the Youth Self-Report (YSR) and Psychological Availability and Reliance on Adult (PARA) questionnaires as indicators of their socio-emotional adaptation. Results of hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that lower carer anxious attachment and greater carer reflective functioning (interest and curiosity in mental states) were associated with fewer youth internalizing problems. Furthermore, carers’ reflective functioning was found to moderate the association between carers’ anxious attachment and both youth internalizing and externalizing problems. Specifically, for carers low in reflective functioning, as their levels of anxious attachment increased, so did adolescents’ internalizing behavior problems. For carers high in reflective functioning, anxious attachment was not related to youth internalizing problems. A similar moderation effect was found for youth externalizing problems. For carers low in reflective functioning, as their levels of anxious attachment increased, so did adolescents’ externalizing behavior problems. For carers high in reflective functioning, anxious attachment was not related to youth externalizing problems. The role of carers’ reflective functioning, abilities that can be developed and enhanced despite one’s insecure attachment, within the context of residential care is discussed.