Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Kevin Meehan

Committee Chair and Members

Kevin Meehan, Chair

Nicholas Papouchis

Elizabeth Werner


Attachment Intergenerational parenting, Parenting, Rejection sensitivity, Trauma


Adverse early childhood experiences, including trauma and rejecting parenting behaviors, have been shown to affect later functioning, including one’s sensitivity to rejection in interpersonal relationships. The current study aimed to examine the early predictors of rejection sensitivity in a sample of at-risk pregnant women whose thoughts about parenting may be particularly activated. It was hypothesized that less caring remembered parenting would be related to greater rejection sensitivity during pregnancy. In addition, a relationship between history of childhood trauma and rejection sensitivity in pregnancy was predicted in this sample. Participants included 83 pregnant women who were randomly assigned to receive an experimental treatment aimed at preventing postpartum depression or to a treatment as usual group. A bivariate correlation demonstrated a medium negative relationship between remembered maternal care and rejection sensitivity during pregnancy. Although a bivariate correlation did not demonstrate a relationship between overall level of childhood trauma and prenatal rejection sensitivity, a large positive relationship was found between childhood emotional neglect and rejection sensitivity during pregnancy. These findings highlight the significance of rejecting, neglectful experiences during childhood. Two subsamples of pregnant women were further examined to determine if remembered maternal care, childhood trauma, and prenatal rejection sensitivity impacted women’s sensitivity towards their own infants at four months postpartum. Results indicated that trauma during childhood, early parenting behaviors, and rejection sensitivity during pregnancy did not relate to postpartum parenting behaviors in this sample. The implications of these findings are discussed in greater detail.