Low Mother Care but not Mother Overprotection Associated with Impairments in Emotional Intelligence and Identity Formation

Abstract

The early parent–child relationship has been associated with various aspects of behavior and development. Although low mother care and high mother overprotection was shown to induce trait anxiety levels in individuals, until now no other study showed the role of mother care and overprotection in emotional intelligence and functions of identity in the individuals. In the current paper, here for the first time we report this event. Emotional intelligence, trait anxiety, functions of identity data collected from the 112 individuals with 30 males and 82 females age ranging 18 to 28 by subjecting related scale measures. Results from group comparisons revealed that emotional intelligence levels and structure and harmonies goals dimensions of identity were   impaired in low mother care groups in comparison to high mother care groups. However, mother overprotection did not impair emotional intelligence and identity formation. In conclusion, maternal care but not maternal overprotection is associated with impairment in emotional intelligence and identity development. Future recommendations and limitations are discussed.

Keywords: Mother care, mother overprotection, trait anxiety, emotional intelligence, functions of identity

Introduction

The early parent–child relationship has been associated with various aspects of behavior and development. A prediction of these early relationships between parent and child in adults can be very useful to understand role of early environment in the development of many psychopathologies. On the other hand, anxiety is common feature of almost all emotional disorders and may lead to a several psychopathologies including anxiety disorders and depression. Therefore, understanding the fundamental mechanisms in anxiety may result in the development of prevention strategies in those psychopathologies. Spielberger (2010) defined trait anxiety as general tendency to respond with anxiety to perceived threats in the environment. For instance, those who have higher trait anxiety in comparison to low trait anxiety feels more threats in several conditions. As a result, individuals judge environmental events as potentially threatening (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, & Vagg, 2010). Furthermore, it has been theorized that impairment in the early childhood interactions with parents may produce anxious and depressive prone individuals (Bowlby, 1982). Moreover, lower parental care and higher parental overprotection have been demonstrated in individuals with high-trait anxiety in comparison to low-trait anxious one (Bennet & Stirling, 1998). However, our up to date knowledge, no other research looked the effect of parental bonding on emotional intelligence levels and functions of identity in combination with trait anxiety levels of individuals.

Emotional intelligence (EI) of an individual is the ability to identify and manage their emotions and the emotion of others (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Those who have more appraising and expressing their emotions can more quickly respond and perceive emotions to others. A previous study showed that adolescents with higher emotional intelligence levels have less anxiety (Fernandez-Berrocal, Alcaide, Extremera, & Pizarro, 2006). Furthermore, a study confirmed this research in which high anxiety and low levels of emotional functioning were seen in university student sample (Extremera & Fernández-Berrocal, 2006). Overall, they concluded that EI is the predictive value for the mental health. Schutte et al. (1998) developed EI measurement scale to evaluate appraisal and expression of emotion in the self and others and regulation of emotion in the self and others. Moreover, impairments in the expression and regulation of emotions in self and others may be leading to a high trait anxiety levels which may be arisen due to problematic parental bonding. In addition, since there are strong evidences between impairment in the early childhood interactions with the parents and more tendency to develop anxiety (Bennet & Stirling, 1998), our research for the first time will be seeking an answer to decipher associations between parental bonding for mother- EI and trait anxiety. Moreover, due to fact that early parental bonding shapes the early adulthood (Roberts & Bengtson, 1993; Rossi, 1990), we will also be measuring construction of the self in our sample which was consisted of university students. Construction of self has been named as functions of identity in which individuals engage in the process of their identity development (Serafini & Adams, 2002). Functions of identity is appeared in certain behaviors such as development and relationship choices. A previous research suggested that identity has certain properties including (a) structure for understanding who one is, (b) meaning and direction through commitments, values and goals (c) a sense of one’s own free will, (d) consistency coherence, and harmony between values, beliefs and commitments and (e) the ability to recognize for the future potentials and other choices. Therefore, identity formation is important in the development of self (Serafini & Adams, 2002).

According to our up to date knowledge, no research until now examined the role of parental bonding on emotional intelligence and trait anxiety levels, in which we hypothesized that low maternal care and high overprotection occurring in early childhood may impair emotional intelligence levels therefore leading to an increase in anxiety levels in university students. Overall, we will be investigating how early parental bonding especially occurring between mother and child has association with emotional intelligence and trait anxiety levels among university students. In addition, their academic achievements using CGPA variable will be measured. We will also be analyzing their identity formation using functions of identity scale and how this differ in response to care and overprotection conditions. We expected to see that those who have overprotected will be having less academic achievement, less functions of identity scores as well as impairment in emotional intelligence and higher level of trait anxiety.

Finally, for the first time, we will be identifying the relationship of parental bonding- trait-anxiety-emotional intelligence and functions of identity in university students. Therefore, this research not only be helpful for the reduction of anxiety symptomology but also be decipher basic nature of early parental bonding related consequences in our sample.

Material and Methods

Participants and Design

Total sample size in our experiment consisted of 112 individuals with 30 males and 82 females age ranging from 18 to 28 (mean age: 22,54 and standard deviation: 2,35).  We used online survey strategy and speeded the link through the university students in facebook groups. We didn’t mention about the experiment, but participants consents were collected.

Experimental Procedure

Prior to experiment, informed consent statement was told to experiments in which they agreed on to participate the experiment and use of data for research purposes. In addition, it was told that they can be withdrawn from the study anytime. In brief, demographic information including age and gender was collected. In addition, we collected CGPA of university students for further analysis. Then, we collected data from Parental Bonding Instrument’s mother form (PBI), Trait version of Stait-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T), Schutte’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS) and Functional Identity Scale (FIS) in the given order for all participants. Then, collected data entered SPSS program for further calculations.

Questionnaires and Measures

Demographics Measures

Participants age and gender were collected. In addition, CGPA representing academic achievement were also asked.

Parental Bonding Instrument

Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) (Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979) consisting of two scales with the same questions. Each scale has 25 items with Likert type scoring ranged from 0 (very unlike) to 3 (very like). Item numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25 are reverse scored. Both scales measures care and overprotection that was related to fundamental parental styles as perceived during childhood. Adults over 16 years complete PBI in regard to how they remember their parents for 16 years. PBI was found as good reliability and validity (Parker et al., 1979). Cronbach’s α coefficient for care items was found as .797 and for overprotection items it was found as .720 (Klimidis, Minas, & Ata, 1992). Our group members were translated PBI into Turkish language.

State Trait Anxiety Inventory-II (STAI-T)

Trait version of State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T) has 20 items (from question number 20 to 40) for assessing trait anxiety levels. All items are rated in 4-point scale from 1 (almost never) to 4 (almost always). Higher scores indicated greater trait anxiety levels. Internal consistency coefficients for the scale have ranged from .86 to .95 (Spielberger et al., 2010). Item numbers 21,26,27,30,33,36 and 39 were reverse scored. Turkish version of STAI-T was used in our experiment (Mevlüt & Varol, 2004).

Schutte’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS)

Schutte’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (SEIS) (Schutte et al., 1998) consisted of 33 items. SEIS is Likert type scale scored from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Item numbers 5,28 and 33 are reverse scored. An internal consistency analysis showed that cronbach’s α of 0.90 for the 33-item scale. A previous report categorized SEIS items into six different categories including appraisal of emotions in the self (AES), appraisal of emotions in the others (AEO), emotional expression (EE), emotional regulation of the self (ERS), emotional regulation of others (ERO) and utilization of emotions in problem solving (UEPS) (Gignac, Palmer, Manocha, & Stough, 2005). Our group members translated SEIS into Turkish language.  

Functional Identity Scale (FIS)

Functional Identity Scale (FIS) is psychometrically validated scale in which it evaluates identity formation in individuals (Serafini & Adams, 2002). FIS is consisting of 20 items and it is Likert-type scale scored ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always). FIS included four different dimensions which are structure, future, goals, harmony and control. Internal consistency in FIS dimensions found as .844 for structure, .796 for harmonious goals, .796 for future and .654 for control.

Statistical Analysis

We collected data from PBI, STAI-T, SEIS and FIS and entered those data to IBM SPSS program. Descriptive analysis, frequency of statistics and normality of data were evaluated in SPSS using Shapiro Wilks test and descriptive analysis options. Data was shown to be non-normally distributed. Then, we calculated cronbach’s α coefficient representing using internal reliability analysis. Non-parametric Spearman’s rho correlation test was applied to understand correlation between PBI maternal care, PBI overprotection, STAI-T, SEIS, FIS and CGPA values.

Results

Reliability analysis using cronbach’s α coefficient demonstrated that scales are internally consistent

Table 1: Cronbach’s α coefficient of scales used in this experiment (N=102)

Scales α coefficient
in validated scale
α coefficient found Number
of items
PBIcare .797 .899 12
PBIoverprotection .720 .668 13
STAI-T .86 to .95 .782 20
SEIS .90 .901 33
FISstructure .844 .747 6
FISgoals .796 .691 6
FISfuture .796 .770 4
FIScontrol .654 .259 4

The cronbach’s α values were assessed using SPSS program. Data collected from 102 individuals resulted in almost similar α values in comparison to previously validated scales (see table 1). Apart from FIScontrol subscale, scales were shown to have good consistency (see table 1).

Then, we divided trait anxiety levels into three categories. Since STAI-T did not mention a cutoff score in its paper, we basically determined percentile versus cumulative percent to split our data into those categories (i.e, low, intermediate and high). In our case, we determined cumulative percent from frequency table and determined 33.0th, 66.0th, and 100.0th percentile which corresponds these cumulative percent on the scale items. We later divided into our data to 3 categories (low levels, intermediate levels and high levels) for STAI-T scale. We used low and high trait anxiety levels in order to make further comparisons in our research.

Individuals having low trait anxiety levels demonstrated higher mother care and lower mother overprotection scores in comparison to individuals having high trait anxiety.

To understand how mother care scores differed between low and high trait anxiety groups, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Group comparisons revealed that university students having low trait anxiety significantly scored higher on PBI’s mother care scale (p=. 036, see figure 1) indicating that those who have higher mother care demonstrating low trait anxiety levels.

Figure 1: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on mother care in parental bonding instrument between low trait anxiety (N=43) and high trait anxiety groups (N=34).

To understand how mother overprotection scores differed between low and high trait anxiety groups, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Group comparisons revealed that university students having high trait anxiety levels significantly scored higher on PBI’s mother overprotection scale (p=.008, see figure 2) indicating that those who have strict mother overprotection demonstrating high trait anxiety levels.

Figure 2: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on mother overprotection in parental bonding instrument between low trait anxiety (N=43) and high trait anxiety groups (N=34).

Emotional Intelligence levels impaired in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care group.

Then, we separated mother care and mother overprotection scores in by grouping them into low and high based on the cutoff scores in PBI scale. In brief, scores ≤ 13,50 in mother care and overprotection scales indicated low mother care and overprotection, scores ≥ 27 indicated high mother care and overprotection levels. To understand how low and high mother care associated with emotional intelligence, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Results revealed that those who have low mother care scored significantly less on emotional intelligence scale indicating impairments observed in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care (p=.013, see figure 3).

Figure 3: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on Schutte’s emotional intelligence scale between low mother care (N=4) and high mother care (N=75) groups.

Then, we deepen our understanding by analyzing dimensions of emotional intelligence between low mother care and high mother care group. Group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test revealed that significantly lower scores on appraisal of emotions in the others (p=.038), emotional regulation of the self (p=.007) and emotional regulation of the others (p=..037) dimensions of SEIS was observed in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care indicating that impairment in these dimensions. However, no statistical differences were seen in the appraisal of the emotions in the self (p=.181), emotional expression (p=.230), and utilizations of emotions in problem solving (p=.245) between low mother care and high mother care groups (see figure 4).

Figure 4: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on dimensions of Schutte’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (AES, AEO, EE, ERS, ERO, UEPS) between low mother care (N=4) and high mother care (N=75) groups. Note: n.s: non-significant

Emotional Intelligence levels did not impair between low and high mother overprotection groups.

To understand how low and high mother overprotection was associated with emotional intelligence levels, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Results revealed that there were not significant changes in the emotional intelligence levels between low and high mother overprotection groups (p=.345) indicating that emotional intelligence levels almost similar between low and high mother overprotected groups (see figure 5).

Figure 5: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on Schutte’s emotional intelligence scale between low mother overprotection (N=3) and high mother overprotection (N=50) groups. Note: n.s: non-significant

Then, we deepen our understanding by analyzing dimensions of emotional intelligence levels between low mother overprotection and high mother overprotection groups. Group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test revealed that no significant differences observed in the appraisal of emotions in the self (p=.395), appraisal of emotions in the others (p=.954), emotional expression (p=.279), emotional regulation of the self (p=..270) and emotional regulation of the others (p=.225) and utilizations of emotions in problem solving (p=.545) between low and high mother overprotection groups indicating that mother care but not mother overprotection was associated with the impairments in the emotional intelligence (see figure 4 and 6).

Figure 6: Scores (median ± interquartile range) on dimensions of Schutte’s Emotional Intelligence Scale (AES, AEO, EE, ERS, ERO, UEPS) between low mother overprotection (N=3) and high mother overprotection (N=50) groups. Note: n.s: non-significant

Dimensions of identity including structure and harmonious goals impaired in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care group.

To understand how low and high mother care scores associated with the dimensions of functional identity scale, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Group comparisons revealed that structure (p=.15) and harmonies goals (p=.032) dimensions of identity scores were significantly lower in low mother care in comparison to high mother care group indicating that there are impairments in these dimensions. However, no statistical differences were seen in the functional identity dimensions including future (p=.252) and goals (p=.141) indicating that these dimensions are regulated without depending on mother care (see figure 7).

Figure 7: Scores (median ± interquartile range) dimensions Functional Identity Scale (structure, harmonious goals, future and control) between low mother care (N=4) and high mother care (N=75) groups. Note: n.s: non-significant

Dimensions of identity didn’t impair between low and high mother overprotection groups.

To understand how low and high mother overprotection scores associated with the dimensions of functional identity scale, we made group comparisons using Mann Whitney U test. Group comparisons revealed that none of the functional identity dimensions tested including structure (p=.571), harmonious goals (p=.083), future (p=.786) and control (p=.612) were significantly differed between low and high mother overprotection groups indicating overprotection did not effect functional identity (see figure 8).

Figure 8: Scores (median ± interquartile range) dimensions Functional Identity Scale (structure, harmonious goals, future and control) between low mother overprotection (N=3) and high mother overprotection (N=50) groups. Note: n.s: non-significant

Academic achievement did not correlate with mother care and overprotection scores but correlated with FIS structure and FIS harmonious goals.

Then, we tested correlation between between CGPA, maternal care, maternal overprotection, FIS structure, FIS harmonious goals, FIS future, FIS control variables using nonparametric Spearman’s rho correlation analysis. Results in table 2 demonstrated that those who have higher CGPA also scored higher on structure (p<.05) and harmonies goals (p<.01) domain in the FIS, but there was not any significant correlation between CGPA and mother care and overprotection scores (p>.05). Moreover, those who have scored higher in (a) FIS structure also scored higher in mother care (p<.05), mother overprotection (p<.05), FIS harmonious goals, FIS future (p<.01 for both) and FIS control (p<.05), (c) FIS control also scored higher in mother care (p<.05) and FIS harmonious and goals (p<.05).

Table 2: Spearman’s rho correlation analysis between CGPA, maternal care, maternal overprotection, FIS structure, FIS harmonious goals, FIS future, FIS control (N=112)

Discussion

The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between parental bonding (mother), emotional intelligence, trait anxiety and functions of identity in university students. we hypothesized that low maternal care and high overprotection occurring between mother and child may impair emotional intelligence levels therefore leading to an increase in anxiety levels in university students. Here, we are for the first time reporting low mother care but not overprotection resulting in impairments in the emotional intelligence.

We recruited 112 university students with 30 males and 82 females using online survey strategy. Scale data collected from those individuals were shown to be internally consistent since almost similar cronbach’s α were found in comparison to validated scales (see table 1). However, FIS control resulted in low cronbach’s α coefficient in which a previous report demonstrated that lower α coefficients could be expected when item numbers are smaller than ten (Tavakol & Dennick, 2011). Next, we categorized trait anxiety data and evaluated mother care and overprotection condition between low and high trait anxiety conditions. Our findings showed that individuals who have higher trait anxiety levels had significantly lower maternal care indicating that parental bonding is important contributor in the development of anxiety (see figure 1). Moreover, those who have higher mother overprotection was shown to have high trait anxiety (see figure 2). In parallel to our results, a previous study showed that lower parental care and higher parental overprotection have been demonstrated in individuals with high-trait anxiety in comparison to low-trait anxious one (Bennet & Stirling, 1998). Many studies actually supported the idea that specific family interaction styles determines the vulnerabilities of individuals to develop anxiety and depression (Blatt & Homann, 1992; Gerlsma, Emmelkamp, & Arrindell, 1990). The possible reason for this situation to occur due to problematic relationships between parents and child increases coping style that child develops. Therefore, negative parental environment resulted in development of anxiety and depression prone individuals.

Since previous literature demonstrated that higher emotional intelligence levels resulted in less anxiety levels (Fernandez-Berrocal et al., 2006) and trait anxiety has association with parental bonding, we think that parental bonding may have an association with the impairment in the emotional intelligence levels. Therefore, with the inspiration of this idea, we for the first time investigated parental bonding to mother, emotional intelligence and functions of identity levels. PBI basically is consisting of two scales with the same questions but participants answer these two scales based on their relationships between mothers and fathers. Here, although it is a limitation of this paper, we focused on mother care and mother overprotection in which we divided care and overprotection scores into low and high levels as mentioned its paper (Parker et al., 1979). Interestingly, we found the significant differences between emotional intelligence levels in low and high mother care conditions (see figure 3) but we did not find any meaningful differences between low and high mother overprotection condition (see figure 5). It means that, it contrasts to our hypothesis, mother overprotection did not impact emotional intelligence. However, in parallel to our hypothesis mother care impacts emotional intelligence levels. Although until now, there was not any previous paper demonstrating such results, we have some speculations for this situation. Mother care or maternal care refers to a style of parenting characterized by individual differences in which mothers engage in caring and responsible behaviors toward their children (Rohner, 1986). On the other hand, mother overprotection or maternal overprotection refers to a style of parenting in which mothers’ behaviors are appeared as controlling, demanding, intrusive and highly supervising to their children. This discourages independent emotions and behaviors in child (Thomasgard & Metz, 1997). The effects of mother parenting styles can also be important when examining the transition from childhood to adolescence in which independence from parents and self-identity formation was occurred. Keeping this small but important information in mind, as expected lower maternal care resulted in the impairment in emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage their emotions and the emotion of others, is an ability to evaluate and express emotions. We explain low maternal care and impairment in emotional intelligence as following (1) The bond that was developed between early mother and child relationship increases the children’s ability to manage and evaluate its emotions. Moreover, we tested how dimensions of emotional intelligence differed between low and high mother care groups.  Our findings suggested that from the dimensions of emotional intelligence, appraisal of emotions in the others, emotional regulation of the self and emotional regulation of the others were impaired in low maternally cared group (see figure 4). This result clearly shows that maternal care through the bonding between mother and child strengthen child’s emotional intelligence by increasing its ability to evaluate of emotions in the others, emotional regulation of self and others. Maternal care is necessary for the healthy development of emotional self and others. Since we did not see such relationships in maternal overprotection conditions (see figure 4 and 6), mothers whose behaviors are appeared as highly controlling, demanding, intrusive and highly supervising to their children did not prevent child’s emotional intelligence development. Child may develop its emotional intelligence by ignoring mother’s behavior and creating coping strategies because of the highly pressure behaviors. Therefore, this coping strategies may result in compensation of EI levels in low overprotected group. This situation also required to be investigated for father overprotection. Although, we did not check father overprotection scores, low mother overprotected group might have high father overprotection. Through this way, scores may have compensated emotional intelligence levels. It is possible to see such affect.

Then, we assessed dimensions of identity formation in low mother care and high mother care groups. Dimensions of identity including structure and harmonious goals impaired in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care group (see figure 7). Structure dimension of identity provides an awareness of the self as an independent and unique individual (Serafini & Adams, 2002). In addition, harmonious goal structure of identity was associated with low anxiety and offers sense of coherence between values, beliefs and commitments. Individuals who have high mother care scored higher on structure and harmonies goals dimensions of functional identity scale indicating maternal care increases self-awareness and promotes self-development. In addition, high mother care offers sense of coherence between values, beliefs and commitments. We didn’t observe this situation in low and high mother overprotection groups (see figure 8). Maternal overprotection may not impact on identity formation, we explain this situation other compensatory affects, such as social intelligence levels of individuals may vary, and role of fathers may impact this process.

Lastly,academic achievement did not correlate with mother care and overprotection scores but correlated with FIS structure and FIS harmonious goals (see table 2). This indicated that those who have higher identity formation in structure and harmonious goals dimensions, know who they were, and set up goals themselves in parallel to their beliefs and values, therefore become more successful. Moreover, those who have scored higher in FIS structure also scored higher in mother care, mother overprotection, FIS harmonious goals, FIS future and FIS control indicating that sense of self highly developed in those individuals, they can recognize future possibilities and alternative choices (Serafini & Adams, 2002) and they can provide sense of control and free will.

Based on our findings, we have some recommendations as well. As we demonstrated emotional intelligence and structure and harmonious goals dimension of identity is impaired in low mother care group in comparison to high mother care groups, those who has bad relationships with their mother may focus on to strength their emotional intelligence levels especially focusing on by increasing emotional regulation of self and others and appraisal of emotions in the others. This may also help to alleviate their trait anxiety related symptomology and may prevent development of anxiety disorders and depression. Since those individuals are prone to have anxiety disorders and depression, psychologists or psychiatrists may target emotional intelligence of those individuals to prevent psychopathologies.

We have some limitations as well. (1) We did not check father care and overprotection scores which may be impact on our findings. (2) we had small number of low mother care and overprotection groups after splitting data. High number of data is especially important when statistical significances are considered. (3) We have more females (N=82) than males (N=30) that may negatively impact current results.

In conclusion, here we for the first time reported, maternal care but not maternal overprotection is associated with impairment in emotional intelligence and identity development.

References

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Caglar Cil hakkında
Türkiye'nin kendimce en güzel şehirlerinden birinde, Denizli'de, dünyaya geldim. Liseyi Denizli Anadolu Lisesi'nde okudum. İzmir Yüksek Teknoloji Enstitüsü (İYTE) Moleküler Biyoloji ve Genetik mezunuyum. Şu an Glasgow Üniversitesi'nde yüksek lisans yapmaktayım. Lisans hayatım boyunca Lodz Üniversitesi, Göteborg Üniversitesi ve Toronto Üniversitesi'nde araştırmalara katıldım. Bu çalışmalar sonucunda Cardiovascular Research ve Journal of Dental Research'te yayınlanan çalışmalarımız var. Öykü yazmayı seviyorum. Öykü Fanzin'de yayınlanan öyküm ve İYTE'de almış olduğum bir "birincilik" bir de "ikincilik" ödülüm var. Almanca öğreniyorum, İngilizce konuşabiliyorum, az çok keman çalabiliyorum. Amacım Türkiye okuyucusuna bilimi sevdirmek, zaman buldukça eğlencesine bilimsel haberleri paylaşmak.

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