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. 2019 Oct;35(4):407-420.
doi: 10.1002/smi.2868. Epub 2019 Aug 2.

The Association Between Executive Functioning and Parental Stress and Psychological Distress Is Mediated by Parental Reflective Functioning in Mothers With Substance Use Disorder

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The Association Between Executive Functioning and Parental Stress and Psychological Distress Is Mediated by Parental Reflective Functioning in Mothers With Substance Use Disorder

Ulrika Håkansson et al. Stress Health. .

Abstract

Mothers with a substance use disorder (SUD) have been found to exhibit heightened experience of stress and deficits in executive functioning (EF) and in parental reflective functioning (PRF). Although experiences of stress, EF and PRF are important for caregiving capacities; no studies have explored associations between the phenomena in mothers with SUD. This study aimed to examine the association between EF (working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility) and different forms of stress (parental stress, general life stress, and psychological distress) in 43 mothers with SUD with infants. We further aimed to investigate whether PRF had a mediating function between EF and the experience of stress. The mothers completed self-report questionnaires regarding experiences of different types of stress, and we also used neuropsychological tests to assess EF and a semistructured interview to assess PRF. Results identified problems in EF were associated with higher parental stress and psychological distress but not with general life stress. Cognitive flexibility contributed uniquely to variance in parental stress, whereas working memory was a unique contributor to variance in psychological distress. PRF had a mediating function between EF and parental stress and between EF and psychological distress. Findings highlight the importance of considering individual differences in PRF when targeting EF in interventions trying to reduce the experience of parental stress and psychological distress in mothers with SUD.

Keywords: executive functioning; maternal; parental reflective functioning; parental stress; psychological distress; substance use disorder.

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