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Attachment, Mentalisation and Expressed Emotion in Carers of People with Long-Term Mental Health Difficulties

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Article number257
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>16/08/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>BMC Psychiatry
Number of pages11
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Expressed emotion (EE) is a global index of familial emotional climate, which is comprised of emotional over-involvement (EOI) and critical comments (CC)/hostility. Although EE is an established predictor of negative outcomes for both people with long-term mental health difficulties and their family carers, its psychological underpinnings remain relatively poorly understood. This paper examined associations between attachment, mentalisation ability and aspects of EE.
Methods: Carers of people with long-term mental health difficulties (n = 106) completed measures of adult attachment (the Experiences in Close Relationships-Short Form questionnaire), mentalisation (the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and the Emotional Self-Efficacy Scale) and EE (the Family Questionnaire). Data were analysed using hierarchical multiple regression.
Results: Attachment avoidance and facets of mentalisation were directly and uniquely positively associated with CC/hostility, with attachment avoidance and other-directed emotional self-efficacy (one facet of mentalisation) each significantly predicting CC/hostility scores after controlling for the effects of EOI and demographic variables. However, no associations were observed between EOI, attachment anxiety and mentalisation. Furthermore, no indirect effects from attachment to EE via mentalisation was found.
Conclusions: Although it would be premature to propose firm clinical implications based on these findings, data indicate that it may be beneficial for clinicians to consider attachment and mentalisation in their conceptualisation of carers’ criticism and hostility. However, further research is needed to clarify the magnitude of these associations and their direction of effect before firm conclusions can be drawn.