Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Elliot Jurist

Committee Members

Paul Watchel

Benjamin Harris

Katie Gentile

Lesia Ruglass

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Community Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


child neglect, subthreshold neglect, parental neglect history, cycle of neglect, parenting behaviors, mind-mindedness


Although links between history of maltreatment, attachment security, and maltreatment perpetration have been established, support for the intergenerational cycle of maltreatment remains weak due to definitional and methodological issues. In addition, less severe forms of child neglect that do not result in Child Protective Services (CPS) involvement have not been extensively studied. In order to expand our understanding of the cycle of neglect, the present study examined a model linking maternal mind-mindedness, maternal history of neglect, subthreshold neglect and child outcomes (physical, socioemotional, and intellectual).

Methods. The study participants were 96 mother-child dyads assessed at child ages of 4, 8, 12, 24, and 36 months. Subthreshold neglect was operationalized using interactional parent behavior rating scales that were captured two Factors of subthreshold neglect: subthreshold neglect of children’s developmental advance needs (Factor 1) and subthreshold neglect of children’s emotional needs (Factor 2).

Results. Hierarchical multiple regressions were used to test a model predicting the moderating role of maternal mind-mindedness (MM) on the relationship between mother’s history of neglect and subthreshold child neglect as measured by the two Factors. Education and mother’s age at childbirth were the only significant predictors of subthreshold child neglect. The two Factors were correlated with the Mother Child Neglect Scale (MCNS), a self-report of maternal neglect potential and various child outcome measures. Post hoc analyses reexamined the hypothesized relationships and indicated that mind-mindedness moderates the relationship between maternal history of neglect and subthreshold neglect, as well as subthreshold neglect and various child outcomes.

Discussion. These findings suggest that mind-mindedness operates in non-intuitive ways in mothers with histories of neglect. Overall, mothers with more severe histories of neglect and high MM tend to rate themselves as being more neglectful and have children with the poorest developmental outcomes. These findings support the need for sensitive and thoughtful methodology when examining child neglect in very young children, and can be used to inform future research as well as clinical and social services interventions for mothers as risk of child neglect.