Abstract: How Parents with Adverse Childhood Experiences Experience Changes in Parent-Child Interactions through an 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Group Intervention: A Qualitative Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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How Parents with Adverse Childhood Experiences Experience Changes in Parent-Child Interactions through an 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Group Intervention: A Qualitative Study

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Valley of the Sun B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Renhui Lyu, Doctoral student, The University of Hong Kong, China
Hui Hu, MSW, PhD student, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Shuang Lu, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Hong Kong
Background and Purpose: Parents with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at higher risk of experiencing challenges in parenting. Due to the unresolved past trauma triggered in parenting, parents with ACEs and their children are more likely to encounter highly emotional interactions marked by quick, automatic, and often angry reactions. Without effective intervention, parents with ACEs may continue the interactive pattern of family of origin, which impairs their ability to respond to their children’s needs effectively and leads to intergenerational transmission of abuse and neglect. Introducing mindfulness practice in group therapy can help parents become more aware of their emotional reactions and pause before reacting. By exploring the link between repetitive dysfunctional parenting patterns and parents’ own childhood experiences, mindfulness-based interventions can stop the intergenerational transmission of child abuse and neglect. Situated in the Chinese sociocultural context, where close family ties are shared among multiple generations, this study aims to explore how Chinese parents with ACEs experience changes in parent-child interactions through their participation in an 8-week mindfulness-based therapeutic group.

Method: Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and thematic analysis, this qualitative study investigated the experiences of 27 parents (25 mothers, 2 fathers; age ranged from 31 to 54 years) who had participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention as part of a randomized controlled trial. Parents were invited to describe their experiences in the group intervention and discuss the changes occurring in their daily interactions with their children.

Findings: Data analysis revealed parents’ changes involve four patterns: a) an overall improvement in parenting and better relationship with child; b) development of a mindful way to self-regulate and new patterns of response; c) an enhanced ability to differentiate personal issues from child problem; and d) greater self-reflection after incidents of dysfunctional parent-child interactions.

Conclusion and Implications: The findings reveal experiences of a group of Chinese parents applying mindfulness to facilitate changes in parent-child interactions. For parents with ACEs, the enhanced ability to differentiate personal issues from child problems suggests the key role of fostering awareness in this process. The findings also delineate how parents realized that their personal experiences had contributed to their own dysfunctional parenting. The study provides implications for developing systematic social work parenting group interventions for ACE populations and informs cross-cultural social work practice when working with clients from Chinese culture and similar backgrounds.