Mother-Child Reminiscing At-Risk: Maternal Attachment, Elaboration, and Child Autobiographical Memory Specificity

Master's Thesis


Mother-child reminiscing, the process by which mothers and their children discuss past events, has been robustly linked with child outcomes including autobiographical memory specificity, the ability to generate and retrieve specific memories from one’s past. Recent work has argued for the need to consider structural and emotional elements of reminiscing in relation to child variables. Moreover, maternal attachment has been associated with mother-child interactions and child memory, suggesting that maternal attachment is relevant to consider in relation to maternal reminiscing and child memory specificity. The current study evaluated (1) emotional and structural elements of reminiscing, and their interaction, in relation to child specificity, and (2) the role of maternal attachment in relation to reminiscing and child memory specificity. Participants consisted of 96 preschool-aged children and their mothers. The sample was predominantly low-income and of minority race/ethnicity. Dyads completed a reminiscing task which was coded for emotional and structural elaboration. Mothers completed the ECR-R to assess attachment-related avoidance and anxiety, and children completed the AMT-PV to assess memory specificity. Results indicated a significant interaction between structural and emotional elaboration predicting child memory specificity, wherein emotional elaboration predicted less specific memory at low levels of structural support. Moreover, maternal attachment moderated associations between elaboration and child memory, such that emotional elaboration, primarily for stressful event discussions, negatively predicted child specificity at high levels of attachment avoidance and anxiety, a profile associated with fearful avoidance or disorganized attachment. Future directions and implications are discussed.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07152014-130645

Author Christina G. McDonnell
Advisor Dr. Kristin Valentino
Contributor Dr. Julia M. Braungart-Rieker, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. E. Mark Cummings, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. Kristin Valentino, Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name MA
Defense Date
  • 2014-06-25

Submission Date 2014-07-15
  • United States of America

  • autobiographical memory specificity

  • maternal attachment anxiety

  • elaboration

  • mother-child reminiscing

  • maternal attachment avoidance

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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