Parents’ prenatal wishes for their children : relations with parenting sensitivity and children’s developmental outcomes



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Before a child is born, parents might have a general (e.g., happy and healthy) or particular vision for their child (e.g., become a doctor). Parents’ ability to focus on their child’s needs and interests (child-oriented goals) above their own self-interests (parent-oriented goals) has been found to predict their sensitivity to their children in the moment (Dix, 1991; 2000). In this study, 126 mothers and fathers, during the mother’s third trimester of pregnancy with both parents’ first child, were asked to verbally report three wishes for their future child. Content analyses of parents’ transcripts revealed eight wish categories: 1) well-being, 2) personal relationships, 3) particular characteristics, 4) particular goals, 5) personal achievement and responsibility, 6) personal fulfillment, 7) protection, and 8) dependence on the parent. Mothers reported more wishes that their future children would be happy and emotionally fulfilled (child-oriented), and fathers reported more wishes that their future children would have a particular characteristic or achieve a particular goal (parent-oriented). Whether mothers wished for their children to have a particular characteristic and whether fathers wished for their children to achieve a particular goal, were negatively associated with their parenting sensitivity (for both fathers and mothers) and children’s developmental outcomes (for mothers only) at 24 months. Linear regression analysis revealed that parenting sensitivity at 24 months acted as a partial mediator among whether mothers reported a prenatal particular characteristic wish and their children’s autonomy at 24 months. Similar mediation analyses were performed with fathers’ prenatal wishes, parenting sensitivity, and children’s developmental outcomes; however, none of the results were significant.